Poem for Spring

April 24, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, former Poet Laureate and NewsHour regular Robert Pinsky considers the downside of spring.

ROBERT PINSKY: In springtime, some people grow misty-eyed with allergies to pollen. The poet Lynne McMahon greets the season gladly, but with the recognition of the hay fever sufferer’s fate at this coming time of year.

Here is Lynne McMahon’s poem “Spring.”

We begin now our interior life, the life 
of the mind, I’m tempted to say, but 
     really we’re driven in
     by the flowering plum, the lilac,

the early April greens sending their brilliant 
toxins to flame and stagger over the delicate 
     sclera of the eye, to sheet
     like tearing silk down the throat

swanned in an arch to clear a breathing 
space, now that breathing’s a conscious thing. 
     We swell and dwindle 
     on a histamine tide,

the bone bowl around a sea that hesitates 
to finally overtake us, though it drives out 
     or subsumes nearly everything, 
     obligations and errands,

the small spiny creatures of the day. 
Not that we’re ungrateful
     for these walled-in glooms and 
     filtering machines, the pharmacopeia

of everyday life that allows us
some measure of perception. We can see 
     in fact that our debility
     is minor, perhaps even a privilege,

a god’s eye warding off tubercles
and metastasis- a seasonal and temporary 
     strangulation whose recurrence
     we can count on

as on little else in the world, a little luck 
choking and stinging its way into our heads 
     where the welcome lies
     disguised as tears.