Even if we had no money to spend on cold drinks or Popsicles at the corner grocery store (a small room cooled only by one electric fan and by the overflow of chilled air from its freezers— the proprietor would shout at us to close them if we stood to long in their icy draft), we could brave the heat to seek out the sun's rewards and stored rain, picking the berries carefully from amid the thorny growth, chewing the stems of the fennel's feathery fronds, seeing how far we could spit the slick seeds of the loquats, drawing the stamens through the honeysuckle blossoms to capture the bit of nectar that would cling to the ends.
Today, vapor tries to become clouds, but produces mere ghosts of clouds— diaphanous puffs of whiteness shot with blue that appear and vanish, only to form briefly in some other part of the sky. There must be little breeze even at their altitude, as they barely move during their abbreviated presence. I watch them as they form and dissolve like the minutes counting down to evening. Though my back yard is without ripe fruits or sweet plants, the memory of the vanished world brings the day a charm that moderates its fierceness.
Suddenly, I'm distracted by some blue jays squawking nearby. They alone show any energy in the face of this heat. The shade of the roof has reached the small clay bowl under the lilac bush where I put water for the birds. I turn the hose on and refill the bowl, letting the stale water spill out as the fresh, cool water displaces it. When I return to my chair on the porch, one of the jays flies down to drink. The fluttering of the bird's wings sounds almost like a breeze.
by Archibald Lampman
From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.
Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.
Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.
In intervals of dreams I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze:
The burning sky-line blinds my sight;
The woods far off are blue with haze;
The hills are drenched in light.
And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet;
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest, and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessed power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.
Archibald Lampman (1861–1899) was one of Canada's best-known 19th century poets. I've only recently become aware of his work. Here is a fairly long and illuminating biography.