Spring officially arrived this past weekend, bringing with it the reminder that roughly one year has passed since the United States first entered lockdown. Maya C. Popa’s poem, “Spring,” recalls that initial period when time and season seemed to “persist” without us. It suggests the grief and isolation felt amidst a season of renewed life, during “the nightmare we dreamed but did not wake from.” But the poem also suggests—expects even—that joy can come as suddenly as grass. Now readers of Popa’s poem must consider, from a different point in time’s passing, how the world has changed and what it might mean to be ready for joy.
“Spring” is from A World Out of Reach, published by Yale University Press at the end of last year. Editor Meghan O’Rourke wrote in the book’s introduction that the title “speaks not only to how many of us felt during lockdown—our former world now out of reach beyond our windowpanes—but also to the ways in which the failings of this moment intensified a yearning for a better world beyond our grasp.” A World Out of Reach is a vivid selection from The Yale Review’s “Pandemic Files” that presents a first draft of one of the most tumultuous periods in recent history.
Maya C. Popa—
Time persists, yes, I can see there are new branches.
The grass, first in a line of transformations,
seemingly risen overnight.
Color is pouring back into the hours,
or forgiveness, whatever the case may be.
With one decisive tug at the earth, the robin’s drawn forth
a shimmering worm,
with such precision, it is almost a cruel pleasure.
This, the nightmare we dreamed but did not wake from.
Time is passing, I concede. A squirrel leaps
from one branch to another.
A hawk studies the field at dusk.
The park announces the season over and over
to no one,
and the silence cranes to listen.
Terraces of light now that the day is longer.
When joy comes, will I be ready, I wonder.
From A World Out of Reach by Meghan O’Rourke. Published by Yale University Press in 2020. Reproduced with permission.
Meghan O’Rourke is Editor of The Yale Review and the author of the best-selling memoir The Long Goodbye and the poetry collections Once, Halflife, and Sun in Days. She is currently completing a book about contested chronic illness.