Cruel April, February crueler yet:
Weary end of winter dark persisting,
The shortest month drags long along
Exhausted banks of brick-red mud-stained snow,
Crocuses entombed in superseding snowdrifts;
Spring robins held at bay by croaking crows.
The wind increasing, dark, and groundhog cold,
All to mock December’s bargain that the gleam
Of solstice bonfires will hasten back the sun.
I remember how the old Norwegians
Used to scoff away the icy clutch of winter dark:
“If you make it through December, you’ll live another year.
You’ll hear the meadowlark at Easter, smell the new-mown hay in June,
Drink chilled wine midsummer and savor in the harvest feast,
Celebrate midwinter’s night and dance the New Year in.
Take comfort in our promise and smile away your tears,
If you make it through December, you’ll live another year.”
As winter drags on deep and drear
From windblown snow to cold and clear
With icebound stars and frost in rings around the moon,
The sun a distant glimmer no warmer than a frozen rock,
And dark, the goddamned unrelenting dark, enduring,
Do not despair, but build again the bonfire in your mind.
Recall the solstice bargain and its promise through your fears,
If you make it through December, you’ll live another year.
Michael Patrick Emery’s poetry collection, Ask the Mad Poet: Observations From My Homeland in a Time of Convoluted Realities, was published in 2015. His poetry has also been published in The Zuni Mountain Poets: An Anthology, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Grey Sparrow Journal, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Crack the Spine, Westview, and Querencia. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from Occidental College and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Now semi-retired from his career in forensic psychology, he lives near the small artist colony of El Morro and is fortunate to be able to read most Sunday mornings with the Zuni Mountain Poets.