Die Winterreise

Franz Schubert, “Winter Journey”

“Only now in the quiet do you feel the sharp sting
of the worm that lives within you…” ~ Wilhelm Muller

The tears you shed are hot enough
to melt the winter’s ice; the road

you’ve glimpsed through windows,
scything through the countryside,

leads farther away than thought.
What can you bring to nestle

in your two hands to last
this journey— blossom from

the once verdant linden tree?
No, leaf from flame tree, leaf

of palm that burned in the shade
of the equator and cooled

to the shape of a braided fan.
For what does the lover really know

of unrequitement? Tell this
if you can to the butterflies

that ferry their flimsy envelopes
of gold, season after season,

from coast to coast. Tell this
to the cliff swallows that wing

their way back to build mud nests
in the walls of the ruined church.

And tell this to the ones
whose forebears jumped ship

centuries ago where the waters
looked almost emerald and warm—

where they came ashore to forge their own
welcome in an inhospitable land.

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