Eliot at Twelve Years

 from a photograph

Today a cold wind travels the earth,
not arid, parching as later it will be,
dragging leaves from branches with a sound
that imitates inferno, prepares purgatory

and its autumnal somnolence. This
is March with a sun that forces you
to narrow your deep dark-violet eyes
over which the hair hangs untidily down

as far as is permitted or required
by a New England etiquette in exile
on southern shores: and you will never try
to combat it openly. To overcome it —

if today the bitter adolescent mouth
signifies such an aim and task while here
against a brick wall the photographer
feigns your execution and your knees

grow guiltily languid in the warmth
of the season and your youth — and once overcome
to leave it empty on the shores of time,
and shining, will mean to live and write

till inclement January, till the bones’ own winter.