Deceptions

Eamon Grennan

Mornings when I put the necessary sunblock on
it’s always summer: sweet and greasy, a smell
of summer saturates the air, although frost
bones over the bathroom window and it’s winter
in the bony trees outside, early-morning headlights
flickering through the solid black of branches
like June fireflies or moths in August. Last week
a willow tree bowing pale green and pale amber
over a pond of swans was for one unwary minute
the dead image of spring, although the light
was light of late October and those leaves, for
all their lavish seeming, were only leftovers
from grace, a throwback not a promise. In fact

so quick is winter: the sodden boards of the
footbridge over the narrow stream are spongy
under my feet and sag a little, giving in to
the new weather. The rasped whine of the motor-saw
pruning trees and hedges rises, dies away, rises
again, a caught creature in the scalding
circle of its pain: the woods are full of them
eating their way through limbs and a wickerwork
of twigs, letting hard light in. A month ago
I could see through the leaves the way light
sees through them, exposing that tightknit life
of veins and trembling cells-green mouths and
tongues that had outlived their larger purpose
and would soon be golden glittering dust, then
just dust, then nothing. In the poor theater

of these unaccommodated days I start each day
with sunblock, and summer sifts into my ready head
the way it did one winter morning years ago
walking with Kate and Conor on the college farm
when the first snow started blizzarding and I
dipped my own and their cold faces deep inside
a huge abandoned wheel of hay and at once-the
snow steelcold on our necks-it was midsummer
we breathed, how we breathed its promiscuous
odors of grass and weeds and wildflowers, our
buried heads swimming in its bouquet: for one
minute warm with summer dust we lost ourselves
like that in a dream of seasons, the snow
steadily increasing. And now as I cover up
with a smooth snow-white layer of sunblock my
cheeks and nose and brow (where the small neat
livid scar is healing), I see through a perfumed
air of summer to where the early sun melts
glitter-bones of frost off the bathroom window.

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