Croci in the snow

My child as yet unborn, the doctors nod,
Agreeing that your first month shall be March,
A time of year I know by heart and like
To talk about - I, too, was born in March.

March like November a month largely unloved,
Parades before April, who steals all shows
With his harlequinade of things renewed.
Impatient for that pastel fool’s approach,
Our fathers taunted March, called him *Hlyd-monath,
Though the month is mild, and a murmurer.
Indeed, after the Titian’s fall and shatter
Of February, March seems a silence.
The Romans, finding February’s ruins
At the feet of March, heard his wind as boasting
And hailed his guilt with a war-god’s name.

As above some street in a cobbled sea-town
From opposing walls two huge boards thrust
To advertise two inns, so do the signs
Of Pisces the Fish and Aries the Ram
Overhang March. Depending on the day,
Your fortunate gem shall be the bloodstone
Or the diamond, your lucky color crimson
Or silver-grey. You shall prove affable,
Impulsive, lucky in your friends, or not,
According to the counterpoint of stars.
So press your business ventures, wear cravats,
And swear not by the moon. If planting wheat,
Do it at dawn. At dusk for barley. Let
The tide transplant kohlrabi, leeks, and beans.
Toward the month’s end, sow hardy annuals.

It was this month when Caesar fell, Stalin died,
And Beethoven. In this month snowflakes melt-
Those last dry crusts that huddle by the barn.
Now kites and crocuses are hoisted up.
Doors slap open. Dogs snuffle soggy leaves,
Rehearsing rusty repertoires of smells.
The color of March is the one that lies
On the shadow side of young tree trunks.

March is no land of extremes. Dull as life,
It offers small flowers and minor holidays.
Clouds stride sentry and hold our vision down,
While underfoot the agony of roots
Is hidden by earth. Much, much is opaque.
The thunder bluffs, wind cannot be gripped,
And kites and crocuses are what they are.
Still, child, it is far from a bad month,
For all its weight of compromise and hope.
As modest as a monk, March shall be there
When on that day without a yesterday
You, red and blind and blank, gulp the air.
 
*March, so called from “Mars,” the Roman war-god and patron deity. The old Dutch name for it was Lent-maand (lengthening-month), because the days sensibly lengthen; the old Saxon name was Hréth-monath (rough month, from its boisterous winds); the name was subsequently changed to Length-monath (lengthening month); it was also called Hlyd-monath (boisterous-month). In the French Republican calendar it was called Ventôse (windy-month, February 20th to March 20th).

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894