The dark emerging trees
from the new-winter wood
are lovelier than leaves,
as cold is also good.
The heart’s necessities
include the interlude
of frost-constricted peace
on which the sun can brood.
The strong and caustic air
that strikes us to the bone
blows till we see again
the weathered shape of home.
No season of the soul
strips clear the face of God
save cold and frozen wind
upon the frozen sod.
On the wet bank’s rim we stand,
the air wild with the beating rain;
the sodden wood awry
with wild wind from the driven sky:
(and I know deeply and with pain
we stand here once and not again.)
The crumbling, heaving thrust of ice,
the thundering tumult of the falls,
familiar crisis of the year,
the swift blood beating in the ear:
(but only once, within the heart
the ice piles ready to depart.)
The men are knotted by the dam,
the grinding floes rear up and roar
and press and push; and with a shout
we watch the jam come tumbling out:
(so may we shout, so may we sing,
O blessed thaw, O holy spring.)
Jazz and folk musician Becca Stevens wove together the lyrics for her song “Tillery” drawing on these two poems by Jane Tyson Clement, as well as her own composition. Hear it on her 2015 album “Perfect Animal” and watch the YouTube video below. Stevens has been acclaimed by The New York Times as “a singer and guitarist with a profound originality enhanced by an innate sense of melody.”
These poems and others by Jane Clement can be found in her anthology, No One Can Stem The Tide.