The Shell Game

By Peter Halstead

for Richard Wilbur

Just when our meadow had decided
To melt the final drifts of snow
Off the latticework of branches subdivided
From the winter’s archipelago,

The residue of icy ditch and frozen briar
Turned by rampant April sun to slush,
A metamorphosis that the roots require
To turn our dismal mountain valley lush,

The weather changed and sealed the mud
With a polyurethane of rime,
Nipping windy summer in the bud
With a plastic pantomime,

As false as tiny blossoms were
Just half a day ago,
Although should warmer moments reoccur,
Bringing back the cameo

Of a trembling aspen’s infant bough
Naively quaking in the breeze,
Would these newborn branches tell us how
To find the former, truer trees,

Or was in fact this sudden spring
Not a season, but a thaw,
And those shifty flowers just a fling
By virtue of their flaw—

The nature of reality to stall:
To weather us the reason for it all.

Tippet Alley
April 30th and May 4th, 1995

Rue de Varenne
April 8th, 2005