March is packing her bags to depart as I sit at my desk today writing this. She is pushing in those last-minute items that try to sneak out of her suitcase, the cold wind that rises up and rushes to escape the confines of her luggage, ready to challenge the sun’s warmth, the snowflakes flitting and scattering as March leans heavy on her trunk, using her weight to fasten the locking mechanism. Will it hold, she wonders, or will her fickle nature leave space for winter’s last breath to escape, to flick at our cheeks and turn them red, to make us hesitate before tucking heavy jackets and boots away in the back of the closet for another year.
I ache for sunshine, the way I sometimes ache for water on a hot day, or ache for sleep when my soft pillow forbids my sliding into that space where dreams make no sense. April Come She Will, wrote Paul Simon in 1966, when streams are ripe and swelled with rain, the B-side of Scarborough Fair. April will come with her yellow morning sun that seems to bathe everything in hope – hope of buds and blossoms, hope of grass changing colour, hope of pussy willows and dandelions, hope of fresh starts. I love April, love her whispers and windows thrown open to release the stagnation of winter with its coughs and runny noses. April was bags of marbles and new baseballs and running without boots and skipping ropes and hopscotch and jackets abandoned carelessly over the fence. April was water rushing, determined and in a hurry, wanting to get on with it, with April’s plan of transformation. I played in the water for hours, the tops of my rubber boots often infiltrated, solitary play engaging with the small torrents bursting out from beneath melting snow and icy crevices, its sound pushing aside everything and leaving those pure moments of play. I find myself wondering now if my introvertedness came from the joy of April’s connection or was April my joy because of my introvertedness. I know introversion is the word to use there, but I find introvertedness, which does not have the blessing of Webster, far more charming.
I don’t think anyone has written more poems about April that Bliss Carman. Bliss, a more perfect name for a poet there is not and with a name like that how could you not write poems about April; it is a given. Bliss Carman, his first name a nod to his mother’s maiden name, was a Canadian poet born in 1861 in Fredericton, but he lived most of his life in the United States and his poetry, more than fifty volumes, was known around the world.
I recited a Bliss Carman poem at the Festival a hundred years ago. I can remember only one poem in its entirety, when I was eight, Rose Fyleman’s’s Fairies. Fyleman wrote Mice – I think mice are rather nice, their tails are long, their faces small, that most of us of that era learned in school. I only remember a few phrases from Carman’s Dance of the Sunbeams, words like sun-clad dancers, and news of their twinkling feet, and banners of crimson fire.
The Festival was always in spring, in early April if I can trust my memory, in the auditorium of the old Memorial Arena, with its wooden floors that echoed the marching of new patent-leather shoes, and the steps to the stage that creaked as if they might collapse in on themselves though they never did. I never conquered the fear of those moments of walking to the stage and coming centre, wondering what would happen if I fainted in fear and tumbled off the stage. But once I was inside the poem or the song, everyone vanished, and I was alone with the words and my skinny knees stopped banging together.
So, come along April, take my hand and walk with me, jump with me in the puddles and fill my senses with the aroma of fresh rain and the earth waking from its long slumber. Oh, how I’ve missed you.