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Sweet Early Spring
David Budbill


When the understory of the woods
is flattened
and you can see the contours
of the earth,
the rock out-croppings—all this
just after the
last pockets of snow disappear,
while everything
is still sere, brown, gray—when
now and then
a woodcock whistles or you can hear
a lone goose
going somewhere—all this, this sweet
early spring—
with no bugs at all, none, not a single one—
clear, beautiful and brief moment,
this emptiness—
this is the time
I love the best—
before the world fills up again with
insects, leaves,
brush, birds, green, a last brief rest—
quiet and peace—
before I have to turn and face
the lush and fertile,
noisy spring.

From Happy Life, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in September 2011
Used with the author’s permission.


David Budbill (1940 - 2016) was born in Cleveland, Ohio to a streetcar driver and a minister's daughter. A track star in high school, he worked at a variety of jobs, with a particular interest in social justice and the great outdoors. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in philosophy and art history and a master's in divinity, David turned his focus to words. In the course of his career, he wrote eight books of poetry, seven plays, two novels, two books for children, a collection of short stories, dozens of essays, and the libretto for an opera. He also collaborated frequently with avant-garde jazz legend William Parker. A one-time commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, David received numerous awards for his work, much of which was inspired by the years he spent living in rural Vermont. Learn more about him at




Post New Comment:
In Florida there is no early spring like this, but I do remember such times from my years of living in New Jersey. I miss this, but not the cold which precedes it.
Posted 04/02/2011 11:27 PM
jimi c. hartmann:
Next to a busy brook, I do not sense this quietude until I walk into the high hill above us and stand in the wonder of silence...then I know what you mean...and now your poem will fill me with awakened appreciation as I inhale the peace.
Posted 04/02/2011 12:33 PM
Posted 04/02/2011 08:40 AM
No wonder you love and choose his poetry; this is a gem, both in technique and in substance.
Posted 04/02/2011 08:21 AM
Makes me realize that I've never appreciated this time of the seasons. I am a Florida native where the seasons tend to blur together. But I did get a glimpse of it on our trip to Washington D.C. the first week in March and this poem describes it perfectly. How wonderful to have the talent to express it so beautifully.
Posted 04/02/2011 07:17 AM

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