April is the cruelest month.
The nights are bitter cold. The sun steals the warmth hidden in each crevice of drying earth. That blazing star sets and the darkness descends, faster than I remember. Canvas lets everything through its threads and the day’s precious heat escapes past the tin over my head. I unlock the trunk and remove the necessary items: wool to sleep in, mittens, hats, knitted sweaters and scarves: colours to brighten otherwise bleak evenings. The soles of my shoes are slightly charred and ready for more late night sojourns by the fire. We will play a game of touch and go, the flames and I. How long can I dig my heels into hot sand before they burn? My toes have thawed, but only just. A minute longer, I say, while smoke billows up from glowing coals. The scent of ashes will find me and settle there, constant as dust. We are sinking in softened sand, eyes stung by dirt and the bittersweet farewell to summer.
In April I saw the dog pack rip apart a young kudu next to the office. I left my coffee on the desk and jumped into the vehicle with my camera to photograph their bloody faces. I recalled how they looked as puppies last winter, playing on the banks of the channel. This April they were hunters, furious and strong. I sat in this seat a year ago and laughed while they tumbled in the grass on unsteady feet. One year was enough for a newborn to enter adulthood, teeth bared and ready to kill. Where was I?
I imagined I might be grown by now. I imagined I might be stronger and wiser. I imagined I might be inhabiting a life that I no longer recognize. I would open the door to a home and hear the voice of someone (I wonder if we have yet to meet). I dream of a thousand lines of prose, sleeping next to blank pages tucked in the bedside table for a better day. I want to describe the slow death of green that this month has wrought. I want to paint a scene of red dust and the sharp crunch of bone. I am hungry for it, but my eyes are heavy, so I reach for a book and a story that will ease the dull apathy brought on by the season.
Another April has passed. I am going home soon, and while I am away the dogs will den again, to raise a new litter of eager predators. I am in awe of them, and their capacity to carry on with unrelenting vigour. Each day brings torn flesh and brilliant life wrapped in strange union. The dogs force me to admit that I seldom exist with such intensity. That said, I am suddenly acutely aware that my twenty fifth April has come and gone. I have tripped over phrases and false starts, but May holds some promise. I won’t punish myself for these few weeks of absence and quiet. Instead, I will defer to the work of another. How comforting it is to know that the lines we read and forget lie ready to infuse the spirit when we are most needy for inspiration.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
– T.S. Eliot