Two Poems by David C. Ward


Side A: Summer Vacation

So what happened there? And when? Seems familiar
Yet different too. Out of nowhere the flowers disappeared,
Clouds cut to the chase, horizons glowed, and the aftershocks
Were felt for years. Photographs curled and browned: sepia
Memories of older times. The scent of  road smoke lingered
Through the years. Enough already! Time to make a plan –
A schedule – that’s the ticket. Something requiring verve,
A sense of purpose to get from here to there and back again

Without untoward interruptions or distress. A cooling drink
Would be just right, an aperitif with ice to go with foreign vistas
Or the old familiar. Just make sure you bring enough
For everyone to share. Respect the customs of the house.
Remember to tip your hat to stray dogs on the street.
Leave your book at home, take a walk, see what you meet.

Side B: Berkshire Spring, False Dawn

That spring we resolved to wait, to not be fooled
By early warmings and the melting of the ice and snow.
We resisted ecstasy, avoided the Dionysian tendency,
Looked askance at all temptations promised by the joyful
Sense of new beginnings. We knew the Puritan divines,
Our forebears, had always gotten nature right: it’s the
Graveyard of hope – trust only in the severity of God
And what he has in store for us – playthings in his hands.

Still. . .the hesitant appearance of green shoots along the roads
Upthrust through grimy ice, the trickle flow of water melt
Down the mountain to swell the streams and river flow,
Washed away our best resolved intentions. We succumbed,
Veins pulsing faster with the promise of the annual renewal.
The result was swift: an Easter blizzard left two feet on the ground.


David C. Ward is an historian at the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian Institution where he has just opened his exhibition, “Poetic Likeness. Modern American Poets.” A small collection of Ward’s poems, called ‘Internal Difference’, was published by Lintott/Carcanet in 2011.