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Phillis Levin's "End of April"

Updated on April 8, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Phillis Levin

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "End of April"

In eight tercets, Phillis Levin's "End of April" offers a fascinating melded metaphor that dramatizes the nature of the pain of experiencing a loss.

End of April

Under a cherry tree
I found a robin’s egg,
broken, but not shattered.

I had been thinking of you,
and was kneeling in the grass
among fallen blossoms

when I saw it: a blue scrap,
a delicate toy, as light
as confetti

It didn’t seem real,
but nature will do such things
from time to time.

I looked inside:
it was glistening, hollow,
a perfect shell

except for the missing crown,
which made it possible
to look inside.

What had been there
is gone now
and lives in my heart

where, periodically,
it opens up its wings,
tearing me apart.

Reading of "End of April"

Commentary

This poem merges the finding of an empty robin's egg with the melancholy felt after experiencing a lost love.

First Tercet: Finding a Bird Egg

Under a cherry tree
I found a robin’s egg,
broken, but not shattered.

The speaker announces that she found a robin's egg; the egg was not intact but not entirely shattered. She, by happenstance, found this egg under a cherry tree.

The reader at this point senses that this speaker might want simply to report some natural occurrence, perhaps offering a theory about how the egg was broken. That the egg was not completely shattered indicates possible evidence of a lack of violence.

Second Tercet: Thinking of Someone

I had been thinking of you,
and was kneeling in the grass
among fallen blossoms

The speaker then makes an abrupt shift from her nature observation and relays the informational tidbit that she had been thinking of you. Thus, the reader is made aware that the speaker is addressing another person, who may or may not be present at the time. The speaker next claims that as she was thinking about this unnamed person, she had been "kneeling in the grass."

The image of the speaker kneeling seems to indicate a humbleness that is supported by the image of fallen blossoms that follows. While kneeling among fallen blossoms, the speaker spies the broken robin's egg. The foreboding scene hints at possible ominous tidings to come.

Third Tercet: A Puzzling Interjection

when I saw it: a blue scrap,
a delicate toy, as light
as confetti

The speaker had backtracked from her opening announcement of seeing the broken egg to place herself in the scene, and now she returns to the opening with "when I saw it." The egg, at first, seemed to be "a blue scrap or a delicate toy," which is a puzzling interjection, but it did seem "as light / as confetti."

Fourth Tercet: A Toy Egg

It didn’t seem real,
but nature will do such things
from time to time.

The egg did not seem at first to be a real egg, which might explain her deeming it a toy; thus, the speaker philosophizes that "nature will do such things / from time to time." That is, nature will play tricks on the vision and other senses. bOne wonders just what kinds of tricks have been played on this speaker to make her the philosopher that she seems to be.

Fifth Tercet: No, Not a Toy

I looked inside:
it was glistening, hollow,
a perfect shell

The speaker continues her examination of the broken egg, saying, "I looked inside." She determines that its inside is so shiny as to be "glistening." It was also hollow, and the shell that was still there was perfect.

Sixth Tercet: Peering Inside the Egg

except for the missing crown,
which made it possible
to look inside.

Of course, the shell was perfect "except for the missing crown." Nevertheless, that missing crown allowed the speaker to peer inside the egg: a situation bad for the egg's former inhabitant, but good for the speaker's curiosity.

Seventh Tercet: No Longer There

What had been there
is gone now
and lives in my heart

The speaker cites the obvious as she states, "What had been there / is gone now." Then her reason for relating this event slowly unveils itself. bThe speaker knows that a bird, in one form or another whether as embryo or full-fledged baby bird, once occupied that now empty egg, but she has no idea what became of it.

Maybe some egg-sucking animal devoured it, or maybe it cracked through and flew away. The latter is probably a bit romantically optimistic. bBut the fact remains that the speaker will keep its spirit in her heart, or so she claims that whatever was there is there no longer, but does now, in fact, continue to live "in [her] heart.

Eighth Tercet: The Pain of a Dead Relationship

where, periodically,
it opens up its wings,
tearing me apart.

And this strange phantom of a once living organism from time to time "opens up its wings, / tearing [her] apart." The dying (or perhaps even its natural escape from the egg) of the living bird and the probable death of her relationship with the addressee have merged.

The pain of the dead relationship is the first cause of her heart being torn apart, but now after experiencing the possible death (or again, simply the absence denoted by the empty shell) of a baby bird, both events merge into a metaphor with wings.bAnd every time those wings open, that is, every time she thinks of her lost love and the lost bird, they break her heart over and over again.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 12 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Audrey. Interesting poem for sure. Some truly unique features. It's always fascinating to witness the drama that grows in new ways out of certain age old topics .

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 12 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Thank you for bringing such enlighten the to the surface. I enjoyed this so much.

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 12 months ago from U.S.A.

      Yes, the end of the poem actually saves it from mediocrity. But the metaphor works so well, one leaves the piece with a feeling that one has not wasted time.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 12 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Good selection. Loved the egg metaphor. Love is as fragile as an egg. Often it leaves a person with just a shell and empty inside. Beautiful flow. Ending was brilliant. The phantom bird in her heart opens its wings tearing her apart.

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