PANTOUM FOR EARLY SPRING

Mid-March. The dirty crust of snow, and frozen mud.
A trio of geese have taken over the median strip–
poking their beaks at barren dirt, hoping for grass.
A man tramps back & forth in time with the traffic lights.

Geese have arrived to possess the median strip–
the pickings are scant. No matter: they persist.
The panhandler’s boots have carved a furrow;
his flimsy sign and Starbucks cup always the same.

Pickings are scant this chilly evening.
I fumble around in my purse for dollar bills.
Sign in one hand, he stops, holds out the cup,
but the traffic stream is relentless: I’ll have to drive on

Fumbling in my bag for bills, I miss my chance.
Some kinds of hunger know no season.
The traffic moves on, relentless. The stoplight’s
gone green. The man stops, turns back to his track.

Some kinds of longing know no season.
Sadly, I stuff the money back into my purse–
The light’s turned green, the man has turned his back.
Too late. Mid-March: the frozen mud, the geese.

Note: The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. (Contemporary versions allow a goodly amount of variation but it’s still a challenge!)