Poem for January

My copy of The Waste Land from modern lit class at Mizzou. (An homage to the St. Louis poet who became a Brit and also to Lou Rawls)   January is the cruelest month. Where did T.S. Eliot get that April business? January is the cruelest month, breeding Black ice boulders out of the dead streets, mixing Memory and desire, the memory of light, The longing for sun, at least more of it every day.   January is the cruelest month, building Slippy slides on the sidewalks, lurking In wait for me to land flat On my butt, if I’m lucky. January is cruel, refusing To share its light with those who wake in the dark And work through the rare hours of sunshine. Assuming there is any anyway.   Sometimes winter keeps us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life for spring. What branches grow Out of this icy rubbish? We do know There is life to come under this ugly blackness. I will show you how winter can be beautiful If only the ice would melt And we could walk happily again On dry sidewalks, even if the temp is single digits With a wind chill below zero, And the Hawk blows off the lake, sending Me on to a dead end street Where there is nothing to stop the wind And they put ropes on some of the buildings to help Us get around the corners.   January is still the cruelest month. Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante, Had a bad cold because she didn’t get a flu shot Despite being the wisest woman in the Midwest. Here, said she, is your card. The frozen Phoenician sailor Who should have known better than to go out without Boots, hat, earmuffs, mittens and down. Those are shells that were his ears. Look! Now frozen to pink marble. Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks. I could have told her not to swim off the rocks At Addison, when chunks of ice cover What was once and will be again Our beautiful blue lake.   January is the cruelest month, even if, as I, You love winter. Just not quite as much of it.   ---------------------- T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land And Other Poems, (1930, Harcourt Brace and Company, Inc.) Lou Rawls, "Dead End Street Monolog" from Lou Rawls at the Century Plaza (Live) (1973) And Mr. Justice (I think), my senior year English professor at the University of Missouri, who taught me to love modern poetry and especially, T.S. Eliot.   
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Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.