April Showers Can’t Stop Poetry!

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Welcome to National Poetry Month—no foolin.’ One feature I receive from the Academy of American Poets is its Teach This Poem, arriving every Monday like clockwork. Today’s poem comes from Toi Derricotte and captures the marvel that is cherry blossom time.

Cherry blossoms
Toi Derricotte, 1941

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.
All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient,
you have an ancient beauty.

From The Undertaker’s Daughter, by Toi Derricotte, © 2011. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Used with permission.

My favorite lines, “Up at a branched/heaven.” I can see the father tipping his son’s chair back. I imagine standing under the pink snowfall of petals myself. Juxtaposition of human disability and the perfection of pink petal flurries cocoons me.

The recommendations for using this with students focuses on: “Be patient/you have ancient beauty.” What is ancient beauty? Things of nature, cyclical things, things that remind us of Whitman’s lines inLeaves of Grass:”And will never be any more perfection than there
is now,/Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”

Pink snow used to fall and stick to the spring-rainy streets running in front of the school where I used to teach. For 26 years I marveled at the shock it gave me to see the ground covered so with spring snow. I miss that ancient beauty.

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