Catherine Breese Davis

The Willows in Winter in the Boston Public Garden
February 13, 2015 Catherine Breese Davis

The Willows in Winter in the Boston Public Garden


In the sun’s white

In a morning ambience of milky blue,

Fresh snow upon the ground

And all around

All sorts of trees stand out

With a new


And alert air;

But from a nearby path,

The willows with straight, yellow, chopped-off hair

Look, to the altered view,

For all the world as if they did not care

How many sweeping winters they

Have looked this way,

Or how they have appeared before, their fine

Long tremulous veils of hair

Blown all one way or hanging heavy there,

Or how much longer now they have to stay.


In diffused light

In the middle distance in late afternoon,

The sky beyond as candid as the snow,

A show-through ochre haze

With, here and there, a thick deep ochre line,

As if the willows’ presence truly seen

Were but a fine


A matter of distinguishing degrees,

The differences between

A slight

Absence and a light


Or a deep

And deeper shades of golds,

Their interplays,


Of lights and willow-shadows, opacities and sheens.


And at night

Close and starkly from below,

But with an upward gaze,

As within

The dizzy soul begins its own ascent, without

The clear-eyed wide repose it seeks,

Toward those high

Severe exhilarating peaks,

Marvels of unease,

Surprise, astonishment, and awe,

The eye,

Through thick and thin in black and naked lines,

Against that far-out crystal bowl the sky,


A crazy any-which-way maze

Become a sharp and kind of counter outward daze,

As if the stars sprang from a stunning blow,

Startling the winter night

And dazzling snow.



Catherine Breese Davis (1924-2002) published poems in such places as Poetry, The Southern Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and New Poets of England & America between 1950 and 1998. A collection of her poems is being edited by Martha Collins, Kevin Prufer, and Martin Rock, and will be published in the Unsung Masters series in June 2015.