It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. George Orwell, 1984
I keep pieces of April in a memory bouquet, I’ve got pieces of April, but it’s a morning in May. 3 Dog Night
It was a day as sparkling as a newly-washed lemon…shadows were a mélange of blue, orange, jade, casting shadows that poured from the tipsy brush of a Monet. Bev Nichols
Dear April 2022,
You old trickster, how clever to begin and end with pranks and provocations that extend throughout your diurnal, sun growing (30 day) span. Perhaps that’s why T S Eliot called you the ‘cruelest month, breeding lilacs from dead land, mixing memory and desire?’ An April Fool prat isn’t complete without sending someone on a fool’s errand (the task must be completed by noon). Shall we, April, travel on—from Twin Peaks to Babylon—where one can observe the Sacaea festival, in which masters & servants change places? Shall we arouse our curiosity and eavesdrop? What have others said about you dear Avril (French), Abrill (Latin), Eosturmonath (Saxon)?
On April 1, 1943, tween Ann Frank writes ‘misfortune never comes singly.’ An attic mate is sick, a neighbor is admitted to hospital, and she’s upset her mother. Her next entry is April 27, 1943. ‘The attic is too warm, but we must light a fire and burn our refuse.’ That night, she sees smoke and flames in the distance, hears gunfire. April Fool’s day, 1944 (4 months before arrest by Gestapo) Ann notes everything has become ‘so difficult.’ Her main obsessions are cellmate Peter and lack of food. Some days endive or sauerkraut is their only food. During the past 22 months, she’s eaten beans, potatoes, turnip tops, and half rotten carrots. To distract herself, she creates ancestry trees and studies Greek and Roman myths. Fourteen year old Ann’s final April entry further describes a consuming infatuation with ‘annex’ mate Peter. He’s kissed her. She dares to hope she’ll soon feel springs’ embrace.
Marco Polo, globe-trotting Venetian (born 1254) was an avid diary keeper. His last words may have been “I have only revealed half of what I saw.” He was raised by his mother; his dad and uncle set off to open Silk Road trade routes. They returned & collected the lad when he was 15. The trio journeyed by horse, then boat from Med to Hormuz, then on to Tyre and Acre. They used whatever transportation available to reach China and Kublai Khan’s Pleasure Palace, over 5000+ miles (and 4 years) away. “In April it rained the entire month; in Kashgar, we traded spices and incense—then entered the Gobi Desert—destination Beijing. I spent a year with Mongols, observing and studying their culture.” When Marco returned to Venice, 20 years later, he armed a ship and fought against warring Genoa neighbors. Captured, he spent nearly 3 Aprils in prison telling his cellmate, Rusticello da Pisa, about his travels. What didn’t you tell him—Marco—Polo? How about you April, withholding secrets must be taxing.
Another thing April, it feels like you’re out to get us. A cluster of catastrophes converge—patterns emerge: In BCE 1184 (4/24) Troy falls; in 1506 CE Lisbon calls: heretics, moors, and jews were massacred (4000+ dead). In 17553 BCE wolf suckled twins found Rome. Fast forward to 1775 CE, Concord, Mass, colonialists call America home, adapt a revolutionary tone. 1792: France declares war on Austria, revolutionaries cry free us. April 1861, Robert E. Lee flees US Army commission to command VA forces (4/3/1861 Civil War commences). 1865, 4/14 Booth shoots Lincoln, who dies on future tax day. 1884: Pope Leo XIII publishes infamous anti-Masonic tract Humanum Genus—disband this menace. 4/2/1888 bank holiday, 1st White Chapel London murder, Emma Smith attacked in alleyway. 4/20/1889 black day, Hitler born—to become wildly abhorred. 1912, April 15th, Titanic sinks, too many with fishes drink. 1914, Hanna Wyoming: 45 men, women, and children murdered, Ludlow Massacre, Gov’t again breaks word. 1943 Nazis enter Warsaw ghetto, uprising, 7000+ killed; 50,000 sent to camps. So much more… failed Bay of Pigs; Hitler’s 4/22/45 admitted defeat; lst Cannabis Day; Chernobyl disaster, Waco siege and splatter. Antrax released Soviet bio lab, April 2nd, 1979, 66+ dead; Oklahoma bombing; Columbine shootings—much sobbing. Gutenberg High, Germany, more of the same—17 go to their grave. 2007 VA Tech, 32+ shot dead. 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil explodes, Boston Marathon survivor hearts implode. 2014 April 2nd, Ft. Hood shooting 4 dead, 16 wounded… With a record like this, no wonder April, you’re deemed high risk.
Somewhere in a slightly water damaged journal, there’s a paragraph about an April in Paris. I wrote it in purple ink, drew les fleurs de la jardin in hot & pearly pinks and sketched green striped café awnings waving along the Rive Gauche. In diarist Bridget Jones fashion, I listed the many ways I found the city intoxicating. That year so long ago, April came and so did I. Who knew a month could get you high?
In the fall of 1960, an ailing John Steinbeck takes a road trip across America in a custom designed camper he calls Rocinante. His wife’s poodle accompanies him. The following April, after receiving poor reviews of his book The Winter of our Discontent, he starts assembling Travels with Charley from trip notes. It’s slow going—this will be his last book. He admits he’s overworked, tired, having produced 20+ novels and countless stories. In an April letter to an old friend a few months before his death, he says he’d prefer to die in mid-sentence, in the middle of reading a book, or in the midst of enjoying a meal. He was a bit like you April, ever changing—rain, shine, frost—feast, famine, sober, sauced.
Though Stoker’s Dracula and Jonathan Harker’s journey/journal starts in May, we learn Harker spent the end of April in foggy London researching Transylvania. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a prolific notebook-keeper: 263 journals on many subjects. It required a 400 page index to enable him to find a particular page. He made subject indexes and an index to reference the 839 people in his notebooks. His April entries, however, are quite mundane, as if April wasn’t his favorite month. Ditto for journals of explorers Lewis and Clark. Twin Peaks Laura Palmer’s secret diary reveals images of the Black Lodge and a late April tryst at a red curtained cabin in the woods. Sylvia Plath, in a wet watercolor and frosted sea glass mood, where bowing red tulips remind her of cardinal colored mandrills, writes, in April Aubade ‘again we’re deluded and infer, that somehow we are younger than we were.’ She captures your star-crossed mood April, makes us feel more fragile than we are.
In 1965, an astute Susan Sontag explains she doesn’t like April for the same reason she doesn’t like complex paintings by Bosch. One shouldn’t have to scan and study a work; she wants to take it all in quickly. April 11, 1971, she says there are two types of people—those interested in transforming and those who aren’t. Both use the same amount of energy. A few April’s later she notes ‘only the exhausting is truly interesting.’ She got that right—fascinating April—with Ramadan sundown April 2nd and Plan your Epitaph Day on 4/6. Float your boat and remember the Titanic on 4/15 and don’t let cream filled Eostre eggs melt in the sun on the 17th. Plant a tree and caress a world map on 4/22—Earth Day. Slay a figurative dragon on Georges Day, the 23rd. On 4/17, attend Japan’s Haiku U; write a 3 line unrhymed poem, lst & 3rd lines are 5 syllables, middle 7. Go…
Walden in the Woods Don Q Tao Te Ching
Morning: pond-gazing Dusk—the windmills turn The eternal Tao
Afternoon: berry picking Is the Don mad, or are we? To know it is not to know
What a hectic day. Nope, it’s him all right. What is it? Don’t ask.
As you end, Avril, laughs amass, turn from foolish to ghoulish. Rhymster Ogden Nash ‘praises your spells & charms, longs to hold you in his arms.’ He calls you ‘gracious, cruel, tender, & rowdy.’ Shakespeare termed you a ‘pied piper,’ and Dorothy Parker knew you differently, said your eyes, April, ‘were hard as porphyry, silver hands slipping over me…’ On your final night, there’s witchery. Hecate’s own mount your April skies, some admit to sacrifice—real or in effigy—others are more likely to appease—home purified, bonfires lit—mead or May wine intravenous drip, daisies clipped, cattle dipped…
Sir James Frazer wrote in his opus The Golden Bough, “on (4/30) Walpurgis Night, witches make their way into neighbor’s houses and borrow or steal something…they ride the air astride pitchforks and churn-dashers. They bewitch cattle, so hang up St. John’s Wort or marjoram.” He also notes on this night straw witch figures were burnt in effigy, a variation of the ancient scapegoating ritual. There’s also evidence of literal sacrifices. Pagans that party hardiest on this night are those inhabiting upper reaches of Harz Mountains Germany, and Ben Nevis Mountains, Scotland, where Brocken Spectres are sometimes seen. A brocken is a shadow or halos cast on a cloud (see Goethe’s Faust) or an entity that spins discord or rewards…April 30 is also the night in 1945 when Hitler and several bunker buddies committed suicide. It’s the day in 1527 England and France teamed up against Charles V HRE; America’s Department of Navy forms in 1798; Robert E Lee declares victory (1863) in Battle of Chancellorsville; Ostankino Tower in Moscow is completed in 1967; and McCartney & Wings release Silly Love Songs.
I’ll conclude on a similar silly note to you April, and gush about your showers, cascades of colors, tassels of flowers, and my lack of willpower to resist what April brings and May receives—a riotous spring. You began (and Twain helped) by reminding us April fools are what we are the other 364 days as well. Simon (& Garfunkel) said April comes, she will. Be there or be square? Root for April as a promise May is bound to keep (H. Borland). April, I trust you’ll arrive and gently leave; write something sweet in your diary to make us beam; and ensure, worldwide, clocks will never ever strike thirteen. ###