April Poetry #2 – Vernality

I am a word lover. I am intrigued by meaning and morphology. I love to ponder where words have been, and what I can possibly sculpt them into. Can I take an old word and use it in a new way? Can I find an out-of-date word and breathe new life into it? I just learned that a lover of words is called a logophile. I think I knew this before but it’s good to be reminded. Sometimes it’s comforting to have a label. I am a logophile. I am a poet. I am a lover of springtime.

This week, my students prepare to take standardized tests, and I am the school’s testing coordinator. My mother would have found this amusing and ironic because as a child I had overwhelming test anxiety. As I dispense testing tips and strategies, the children obediently nod and listen. I tell them that the most important testing tip I needed as a child was not to get lost in the reading passages. I told them I would sometimes get lost in the subject matter (i.e.: yellow-bellied sliders) or wander off thinking about a particular word I came across. I warned them to stay focused and read the passages like they were important directions. Don’t get off track. Don’t dawdle. And whatever you do, don’t daydream. They giggled when I acted out my 9-year-old self getting lost in a reading passage. They could see themselves in me, and they knew that although it wasn’t the best strategy for test-taking, wandering into daydreams can be so much fun.

So here is my wandering for today. I am going to play with the Old-English word, vernality , which came from Haggard Hawks, an account devoted to obscure and interesting English words. I loved the sound of it on my tongue – ver – na- li – ty. Vernality. Can you see green sprouting up along the creekside, can you hear the bird rustling in the underbrush, can you feel the sharp pricks of the thicket around your ankles, the slight chill in warming air? That is vernality, the quality of being vernal or spring-like.

Vernality

Sun, over the horizon,
brightening morning,
warming the winter earth.

Red buds on black branches,
Chartreuse buds,
bulbous and dew-kissed.

The straw-colored field,
blushing green,
Dotted with crows.

Cardinals lilt in the air
like crimson marionettes,
sky to blooming branch.

Vernal pools appear,
spring peepers sing,
amphibian love songs.

Forsythia and daffodils
pay homage to the sun,
glistening golden.



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