by Theodora Goss
This is the coldest day of the year so far —
the kind of cold that hurts you to the bone,
that says to impatient bulbs, stay underground:
the world is dead, there’s nothing for you here.
And yet this is the day we’ve chosen to be
our Valentine, instead of some day in June
when birdsong would wake us, not this bitter cold —
when roses would actually be blooming. Crazy, isn’t it?
The thing is, we like to believe in what we can’t see,
we crazy humans. That bulbs will be daffodils
and crocuses, that those sticks poking out of the ground,
half-covered in burlap, are actually rose bushes,
that the warblers and wrens who are having a grand old time
in Mexico will decide to return again.
We believe in spring, we believe in promises,
we talk about love, that insubstantial notion,
convinced that it will sprout from the cold ground.
We are, all of us, incurable romantics.
And yet, before the snow fell, I could see,
poking out of the ground, a few green shoots.
I know they’re there, just waiting for a finger
of warmth to touch them. And when that delicate girl,
the spring, with sunlit hair, returns again
from wherever she’s been vacationing, they’ll grow,
filling our world with colors and fragrances.
We’ll forget our frostbitten cheeks, the icy sidewalks.
For now? We wrap ourselves in scarves and curse
the wind, and slip on ice, and talk about love,
convinced that it exists although we can’t see it —
hopeful or delusional, which may be
much the same thing. Meanwhile the world around us
lies (at least we hope) not dead but sleeping . . .
(The illustration is by Walter Crane.)