April in the Berkshires


From the Archive

North Adams, Massachusetts, in April 1934.

“April in the Berkshires,” a poem by William Matthews from our Spring 1987 issue. Matthews died in 1997. “Auden was wrong,” he said in a 1995 interview: “It’s not true that poetry makes nothing happen. It tends to work its wonders in a very small arena. It makes you more interesting to yourself, and you and me, at its best … It has the power to perform a kind of cleansing, or rinsing of the sort for which for a long part of human history, we had only images of theological intervention to describe.”

Dogs skulk, clouds moil and froth, humans
begin to cook—butter, a blue waver of flame,
chopped onions. A styptic rain stings grit and soot

from the noon air. Here and there, like the mess
after a party, pink smudgily tinges the bushes,
but they’ll be long weeks of mud and sweaters

before a finch dips and percolates through
the backyard air like the talk of old friends.
It feels like the very middle, the exact

fulcrum of our lives. Our places wait for us
in the yard, like shadows furled in bud.
On the chill wands of the forsythia pale

yellow tatters wave. How long has Mr. Forsyth
Been dead? Onto the lawn we go.
Lights, camera, action: the story of our lives.