Cruel April

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The mixed message of April leaves us bumfuzzled and agreeing with the poet who claims it to be the cruelest month. This year, more than any I remember, it seems to be handing us spring and taking it back. 

Knowing for sure that this is poetry month counters the uncertainty about whether or not it is actually spring. I owe my parents a debt of gratitude for my love of poetry – from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

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Mama read some silly poems like “Jabberwocky,” but most often she read classics, firmly believing we gained something from words beyond our understanding because of their beauty. In an unexpected turn of events when I was six, we discovered I had memorized “Crossing of the Bar” from her many readings. My ten-year-older foster sister practiced learning it for a high school class, and I helpfully filled in the words when she stumbled. It remains a favorite even after I have gained some understanding of its meaning. 

Many years later when I mused over how to make poetry important to my students while commuting to a children’s literature class, it occurred to me that Mama had done it by reading poems aloud just for pleasure. I knew what I needed to do and from that point began class every morning with a poem. In a bit of serendipity, I have become reacquainted with an excellent teacher here in Hattiesburg that used to be one of my second graders at Fort Polk, Louisiana. She said her memory of my class was that we started each day with a poem. 

Daddy’s poems could be lofty, maybe taken from Paradise Lost, for a sermon, but those he used with us ran closer to the silly like the purple cow that he’d rather see than be or the one that is most appropriate for April in this crazy year of wondering when spring will show up. 

“Spring is sprung.
The grass is riz.
I wonder where
The flowers is.” 

I could actually help with that. They are blooming in my yard. They seem to know that one of these days, April is going to hand us spring and let us keep it – or maybe just skip it altogether and let May hand us summer. 

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