April Fools —by Jinny Batterson
(written on a glorious April Fool’s Day, 2014, after a long and difficult winter season.)
Winter this year was long and dreary, with snow, ice, cold rain—
It seemed spring would never come.
Yet here it is, finally. As dawn comes up
And April announces herself with sun
And more than a little warmth,
The birds insist loudly, in trills, chirps, tapping:
“Enough already of this obsession with death and decay.
What’s important now are nests and plumage and song.
You humans are impaired, but you can still do your bit:
Get a new rug, clean the kitchen, paint a wall in vibrant colors.
Get out your loudest stripes, polka dots, plaids, tie-dyes
And put them on. Find that skirt or pair of shorts that’s
A little too tight from several months of therapeutic chocolates,
And wear it anyway. Skip a little; hum to yourself; giggle–
Even sing or laugh out loud at nothing at all.
Play ribald yet kind jokes on each other. Step out!”
There’s just enough cloud to turn the sunrise pink and purple,
Hues that the redbuds and peach trees echo.
The air has a yeasty smell from a bakery upwind.
The birds are right, you know—
In this burgeoning season, trying to remain solemn
Is the biggest foolishness of all.
Christmas by the Desert –by Jinny Batterson
(Originally written in December, 2006, as we completed a first term as foreign English teachers at a smallish desert reclamation university in far western China.)
On bad days, the weakening sun blinks slowly over a bare landscape.
The students who bother to show up at all
drowse or exchange text messages on their cell phones.
Life seems brittle; our small attempts to make a difference, to enjoy ourselves
While doing it are dry as the dust that, folks tell us, will fill the air in April.
Uyghur, Han, Mongolian, American–
each of us wanders with little sense of direction
In this polyglot excuse for a university,
where misfits and refugees from “inland”
mingle but do not very much mix.
It is cold, and sometimes, even in December,
The wind blows.
Good days predominate.
An older student respectfully inquires
about differences among Western religions.
A few stalwart undergraduates continue to attend classes even
After their prescribed seven listening sessions are up.
An abundance of kitschy but sincere
holiday decorations festoon the shops,
Spreading a message of peace and goodwill that needs no language.
Wintering birds twitter.
Faraway friends send emails.
A little clean snow lingers in the shadows and on hedges from the dusting
That fell nearly a month ago.
Adults and children who do not know us say an English “hello,”
The children accompanying their greeting by giggles and running away.
Crews gather leaves and prune the dormant trees
to prepare for the next warm season.
The desert nearby covers us all with a sort of stillness,
Scouring away the unneeded cares of more “settled” life.
Our family and a not-quite-grandchild send pictures and greetings.
Life is resilient.