The cold wind doth blow, and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll fly to the barn to keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.
My father taught me the nursery rhyme. He would not have guessed its origins, in Britain, as long ago as the sixteenth century. Nonetheless, his eighth-grade education at a country school had included a large store of memorized poems in which he took lifelong pleasure–and which he gave to his children. Rhyme and meter played their part, the thunk of each emphasized word, the plink-plink of the repeated last two syllables brought satisfaction to a young child. Added to this was the sudden awareness that just like ourselves, poor robin wished to be snug and warm.
It was my father’s recitations during those lamp-lit evenings at home or as he went about his farming chores that opened poetry’s door to me. Here is a poem from the third or “autumn” section of my chapbook, The Zebra’s Friend.
This fall we will not forget to
lift down the wind chimes from
the nail ‘neath the porch eaves
high above, below the gutter of
the roof. Their music played to
that small river in the spring,
and to clematis, iris, rose—and
us—the summer long, once more.
Last winter, though, one night,
through fleur-de-lis of frost on
glass, I watched those slender
columns fly, heard their peals
frantic above the blizzard’s roar—
until at last and one by one,
the chimes outspent themselves.
Each one, its cord cut cleanly
through, dropped into the snow—
an icicle, or a remembered song.