The habit of hope is

the spike in the dark

when the dawn spills through

a crack in the shade.


It's the oriole's repertoire

shot through the air

despite the persistence

of still falling snow.


It's the smile unexpected

that bursts through the skin

and warms away the numbness

laid in winter's wake.


It's the time when the northerns

sweep through the valley

and meet the first fragrance

of wheat in the making.


They catch the heat rise

from the earth on their faces

and tell the high hill folk

why brooks broke their silence.


It's the spine of the crocus

creasing the tombstone

building to bloom alone after dusk

with woods asleep and the world unaware.


Jerome L. McElroy


*Published in The Flying Island (Winter 1996).