Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lilacs  

Those laden lilacs
                                at the lawn’s end
Came stark, spindly,
                                   and in staggered file,
Like walking wounded
                                       from the dead of winter.
We watched them waken
                                          in the brusque weather
To rot and rootbreak,
                                    to ripped branches,
And saw them shiver
                                   as the memory swept them
Of night and numbness
                                      and the taste of nothing.
Out of present pain
                                  and from past terror
Their bullet-shaped buds
                                        came quick and bursting,
As if they aimed
                             to be open with us!
But the sun suddenly
                                     settled about them,
And green and grateful
                                         the lilacs grew,
Healed in that hush,
                                     that hospital quiet.
These lacquered leaves
                                       where the light paddles
And the big blooms
                                    buzzing among them
Have kept their counsel,
                                           conveying nothing
Of their mortal message,
                                             unless one should measure
The depth and dumbness
                                            of death’s kingdom
By the pure power
                                 of this perfume.

- Richard Wilbur


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