Heat

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Now is it as if Spring had never been,
And Winter but a memory and dream,
Here where the Summer stands, her lap of green
Heaped high with bloom and beam,

Among her blackberry-lilies, low that lean
To kiss her feet; or, freckle-browed, that stare
Upon the dragonfly which, slimly-seen,
Like a blue jewel flickering in her hair,
Sparkles above them there.

II.

Knee-deep among the tepid pools the cows
Chew a slow cud or switch a slower tail,
Half-sunk in sleep beneath the beechen boughs,
Where thin the wood-gnats ail.

From bloom to bloom the languid butterflies drowse;
The sleepy bees make hardly any sound;
The only things the sunrays can arouse,
It seems, are two black beetles rolling 'round
Upon the dusty ground.

III.

Within its channel glares the creek and shrinks,
Beneath whose rocks the furtive crawfish hides
In stagnant places, where the green frog blinks,
And water-spider glides.

Far hotter seems it for the bird that drinks,
The startled kingfisher that screams and flies;
Hotter and lonelier for the purple pinks
Of weeds that bloom, whose sultry perfumes rise
Stifling the swooning skies.

IV.

From ragweed fallows, rye fields, heaped with sheaves,
From blistering rocks, no moss or lichens crust,
And from the road, where every hoof-stroke heaves
A cloud of burning dust,

The hotness quivers, making limp the leaves,
That loll like tongues of panting hounds. The heat
Is a wan wimple that the Summer weaves,
A veil, in which she wraps, as in a sheet,
The shriveling corn and wheat.

V.

Furious, incessant in the weeds and briers
The sawing weed-bugs sing; and, heat-begot,
The grasshoppers, so many strident wires,
Staccato fiercely hot:

A lash of whirling sound that never tires,
The locust flails the noon, where harnessed Thirst,
Beside the road-spring, many a shod hoof mires,
Into the trough thrusts his hot head, immersed,
'Round which cool bubbles burst.

VI.

The sad, sweet voice of some wood-spirit who
Laments while watching a loved oak tree die,
From the deep forest comes the wood-dove's coo,
A long, lost, lonely cry.

Oh, for a breeze, a mighty wind to woo
The woods to stormy laughter; sow like grain
The world with freshness of invisible dew,
And pile above far, fevered hill and plain,
Vast bastions black with rain.

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