A Winter Carnival

Jan 26, 2018

Today’s poem is “A Winter Carnival” by Samuel French Morse (1916-1985). He was born in Massachusetts and taught at schools in New England, including Colby College and the University of Maine. He had a home in Hancock Point.

A Winter Carnival
by Samuel French Morse

Like gabbling clowns in black and white
They’re here almost before the sun
For the hard seeds we scatter. One
Gray sparrow and another fight

For any tidbits they can get,
Until the whole backyard’s alive
With crackling noise. The grosbeaks dive,
Feinting for vantage, where the wet

Soft snow still clings to pine and roof
And the black bush they scarcely touch
Before the light. They eat as much
As Gog and Magog, then, aloof,

Take off. They decorate the fence
A little while.... But now they’re gone
The sparrows stay. A patch of lawn
Shows brown, the barest evidence

Of the day’s thaw. One skinny crow
Rides over, and a chickadee
Upside down in the apple tree
Picks at the buds. The sparrows go.

Starling and redpoll, nuthatch, jay
Raise a cold hubbub in the air,
So bright a rumpus everywhere,
They almost scare themselves away....

It starts to snow. The sun-shaped patch
Of frozen grass grows white again
In a soft whirling dusk, and when
We look outside, we only catch

The shadow of the year’s end, drawn
Like blurring wings across the slack
And drifted storm. But they’ll be back,
The birds, with ten below, at dawn.

Poem copyright © 1964 Samuel French Morse.
Reprinted from The Changes,
Alan Swallow, 1964,
by permission of Samuel C. Morse.