Upon a Second Marriage

By James Merrill

for H. I. P.

    Orchards, we linger here because
Women we love stand propped in your green prisons,
Obedient to such justly bending laws
            Each one longs to take root,
        Lives to confess whatever season's
Pride of blossom or endeavor's fruit
        May to her rustling boughs have risen.

        Then autumn reddens the whole mind.
No more, she vows, the dazzle of a year
Shall woo her from your bare cage of loud wind,
            Promise the ring and run
        To burn the altar, reappear
With apple blossoms for the credulous one.
        Orchards, we wonder that we linger here!

        Orchards we planted, trees we shook
To learn what you were bearing, say we stayed
Because one winter dusk we half-mistook
            Frost on a bleakened bough
        For blossoms, and were half-afraid
To miss the old persuasion, should we go.
        And spring did come, and discourse made

        Enough of weddings to us all
That, loving her for whom the whole world grows
Fragrant and white, we linger to recall
            As down aisles of cut trees
        How a tall trunk's cross-section shows
Concentric rings, those many marriages
        That life on each live thing bestows.


James Merrill’s poem is copyright © the Literary Estate of James Merrill at Washington University in St. Louis and appears by permission of Washington University and Stephen Yenser.