Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Some November Poems

"The Way the Leaves Keep Falling"

It is November
and morning -- time to get to work.
I feel the little whip
of my conscience flick
as I stand at the window watching
the great harvest of leaves.
Across the street my neighbor,
his leaf blower already roaring,
tries to make order
from the chaos of fading color.
He seems brave and a bit foolish.
It is almost tidal, the way
the leaves keep falling
wave after wave to earth.

In Eden there were
no seasons, and sometimes
I think it was the tidiness
of that garden
Eve hated, all the wooden tags
with the new names of plants and trees.
Still, I am Adam's child too
and I like order, though
the margins of my poems
are ragged, and I stand here
all morning watching the leaves.

--Linda Pastan


"Design for November"

Let confusion be the design
and all my thoughts go,
swallowed by desire: recess
from promises in
the November of your arms.
Release from the rose: broken
reeds, strawpale,
through which, from easy
branches that mock the blood
a few leaves fall. There
the mind is cradled,
stripped also and returned
to the ground, a trivial
and momentary clatter. Sleep
and be brought down, and so
condone the world, eased of
the jagged sky and all
its petty imageries, flying
birds, its fogs and windy
phalanxes . . .

--William Carlos Williams


"Another November"

In the blue eye of the medievalist there is a cart in the road.
There are brushfires and hedgerows and smoke and smoke
and the sun gold dollop going down.

The light has been falling all afternoon and the rain off and on.
There is a picture of a painting in a book in which the surface
of the paper, like the membrane of the canvas,

is nothing if not a light falling from another source.
The harvest is finished and figure, ground, trees lined up against
the sky all look like furniture --

even the man pushing the cart that looks like a chair,
even the people propped up in the fields, gleaning, or watching
the man, waving his passage on.

Part of a cloud has washied in to clarify or confound.
It is that time of the day between work and supper when the body
would lie down, like bread, or is so much of a piece

with the whole it is wood for a fire. witness how
it is as difficult to paint rain as it is this light falling across
this page right now because there will always be

a plague of the luminous dead being wheeled to the edge of town.
The painting in the book is a landscape in a room, cart in the road,
someone's face at the window.

--Stanley Plumly


"Leonids Over Us"

The sky is streaked with them
burning hole in black space --
like fireworks, someone says
all friendly in the dark chill
of Newcomb Hollow in November,
friends known only by voices.

We lie on the cold sand and it
embraces us, this beach
where locals never go in summer
and boast of their absence. Now
we lie eyes open to the flowers
of white ice that blaze over us

and seem to imprint directly
on our brains. I feel the earth,
rolling beneath as we face out
into the endlessness we usually
ignore. Past the evanscent
meteors, infinity pulls hard.

--Marge Piercy


"After the Harvest"

Pulling the garden, I always think
of starving to death, of how it would be to get by
on what the hard frost left untouched
at the end of the world: a penance of kale,
jerusalem artichokes, brussels sprouts,
some serviceberries, windfall apples
and the dubious bounty of hickory nuts.

Pretty slim pickings for the Tribulation
if that's what this is, preceding
the Rapture I choose to be left out of.
Having never acceded to an initial coming
I hold out no hope for a second
let alone this bland vision of mail-order angels
lifting born-again drivers up from behind the wheel
leaving the rest of us loose on the highways
to play out a rudderless dodgem.

When parents were gods survival was a game
I played in my head, reading by flashlight
under the covers Swiss Family Robinson
and The Adventures of Perrine, who lived in a hut
and was happy weaving moccasins out of marsh grass.

I longed to be orphaned like her, out on my own,
befriending little creatures of the woods,
never cold or wet or hungry. to be snug
in spite of the world's world is the child-hermit's plan.
Meekly I ate the detested liver and lima beans.

Now all of the gods agree, no part of the main
can survive the nuclear night. and yet,
like a student of mine who is writing a book
on an island linked by once-a-week ferry
to Juneau, where one pay phone and a hot spring bath
suffice for all, in innocent ways we still
need to test the fringe of the freezing dark.
He thinks he can be happy there year round
and the child in me envies his Cave of the Winds.

Meanwhile I fling cornstalks and cucumber,
pea and squash vines across the fence
and the horses mosey over to bet carrot tops.
I am mesmerized by the gesture, handfeeding
feathery greens to the brood mares. this could

be last year or five years or ten years ago
and I sense it is ending, this cycle of saving
and sprouting: a houseful of seedlings in March,
the cutworms in May, June's ubiquitous weeds,
the long August drought peppered with grasshoppers
even as I lop the last purple cabbage, big
as a baby's head, big as my grandson's brain
who on the other side of the world is naming
a surfeit of tropical fruits in five-tone Thai.
A child I long to see again,
growing up in a land where thousands, displaced,
unwanted, diseased, are awash in despair.

Who will put the wafer of survival on their tongues,
lift them out of the camps, restore
their villages, replant their fields, those gardens
that want to bear twelve months of the year?
Who gets Rapture?

Sidelong we catch film clips of the Tribulation
but nobody wants to measure the breadth and length
of the firestorms that lurk in Overkill,
certitude of result though overwhelming strength,
they define it in military circles,

their flyboys swirling up in sunset contrails.
The local kids suit up to bob for apples,
go trick-or-treating on both sides of Main.
November rattles its dry husks down the food chain
on this peaceable island at the top of the hill.

--Maxine Kumin


"The Region November"

It is hard to hear the north wind again,
And to watch the treetops, as they sway.

They sway, deeply and loudly, in an effort,
So much less than feeling, so much less than speech,

Saying and saying, the way things say
On the level of that which is not yet knowledge:

A revelation not yet intended.
It is like a critic of God, the world

And human nature, pensively seated
On the waste throne of his own wilderness.

Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier,
The trees are swaying, swaying, swaying.

--Wallace Stevens


"November Calf"

She calved in the ravine, beside
the green-scummed pond.
Full clouds and mist hung low --
it was unseasonably warm. Steam
rose from her head as she pushed
and called; her cries went out
over the still-lush fields.

First came the front feet, then
the blossom-nose, shell-pink
and glistening; and then the broad
forehead, flopping black ears,
and neck . . . . She worked
until the streaming length of him
rushed out onto the ground, then
turned and licked him with her wide
pink tongue. He lifted up his head
and looked around.

The herd pressed close to see, then
frolicked up the bank, flicking
their tails. It looked like revelry.
The farmer set off for the barn,
swinging in a widening arc
a frayed and knotted scrap of rope.

--Jane Kenyon


"Letter in November"

Love, the world
Sudenly turns, turns color. The streetlight
Splits through the rat's-tail
Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic,

This little black
Circle, with its tawn silk grasses -- babies' hair.
There is a green in the air,
Soft, delectable.
It cushions me lovingly.

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
My wellingtons
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.

This is my property.
Two times a day
I pace it, sniffing
The barbarous holly with its viridian
Scallops, pure iron,

And the wall of old corpses.
I love them.
I love them like history.
The apples are golden,
Imagine it ----

My seventy trees
Holding their gold-ruddy balls
In a thick gray death-soup,
Their million
Gold leaves metal and breathless.

O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me
Walks the waist-high wet.
The irreplaceable
Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.

--Sylvia Plath


"Solitude Late at Night in the Woods"

The body is like a November birch facing the full moon
And reaching into the cold heavens.
In these trees there is no ambition, no sodden body, no leaves,
Nothing but bare trunks climbing like cold fire!

My last walk in the trees has come. At dawn
I must return to the trapped fields,
To the obedient earth.
The trees shall be reaching all the winter.

It is a joy to walk in the bare woods.
The moonlight is not broken by the heavy leaves.
The leaves are down, and touching the soaked earth,
Giving off the odors that partridges love.

--Robert Bly


"The November Angels"

Late dazzle
of yellow
the simplified woods,
spare chipping away
of the afternoon-stone
by a small brown finch --
there is little
for them to do,
and so their gossip is
idle, modest:

the Earth-pelt
dapples and flows
with slow bees
that spin
the thick, deep jute
of the gold time's going,
the pollen's
traceless retreat;
enter their kingdom,
their blue crowns on fire,
and feast on the still-wealthy world.

A single, cold blossom
tumbles, fledged
from the sky's white branch.
And the angels
look on,
observing what falls:
all of it falls.

Their hands hold
no blessings,
no word
for those who walk
in the tall black pines,
who do not
feel themselves falling --
the ones who believe
the loved companion
will hold them forever,
the ones who cross through
alone and ask for no sign.

The afternoon
lengthens, steepens,
flares out --
no matter for them.
It is assenting
that makes them angels,
neither increased
nor decreased
by the clamorous heart:
their only work
to shine back,
however the passing brightness
hurts their eyes.

--Jane Hirschfield


"A Debt"

I come on the debt again this day in November

It is raining into the yellow trees
The night kept raising white birds
The fowls of darkness entering winter
But I think of you seldom
You lost nothing you need entering death

I tell you the basket has woven itself over you
If there was grief it was in pencil on a wall
At no time had I asked you for anything

What did you take from me that I still owe you

Each time it is
A blind man opening his eyes

It is a true debt it can never be paid
How have you helped me
Is it with speech you that combed out your voice till the ends bled
Is it with hearing with waking of any kind
You in the wet veil that you chose it is not iwht memory
Not with sight of any kind not

It is a true debt it is mine alone
It is nameless
It rises from poverty
It goes out from me into the trees
Night falls

It follows a death like a candle
But the death is not yours

--W. S. Merwin


"Late November"

The white sun
like a moth
on a string
circles the southpole.

--A. R. Ammons


"Trying to Sleep Late on a Saturday Morning in November"

In the living room walter Cronkite
prepares us for the moon shot.
We are approaching
the third and final phase, this
is the last exercise.
I settle down,
far down into the covers.

My son is wearing his space helmet.
I see him move down the long airless corridor,
his iron boots dragging.

My own feet grow cold.
I dream of yellow jackets and near
frostbite, two hazards
facing the whitefish fishermen
on Satus Creek.

But there is something moving
there in the frozen reeds,
something on its side that is
slowing filling with water.
I turn onto my back.
All of me is lifting at once,
as it if were impossible to drown.

--Raymond Carver


"Wild Turkeys in Paradise"

Just down the slope from my own deck,
two apple trees I planted years ago,
now fully grown, stretch out their arms
as if they were enjoying the late warmth
of the November sun.
They bore so many apples that
I let them ripen unplucked on the branch
and fall, according to the rhythm of the year.
Such bounty piled up on the ground
the grazing deer could not
consume them as they rotted and turned brown,
and I could smell their pungency
when the wind blew from the east
until the first snow came and covered them.
Last Sunday, strutting stupid from the woods -- as if
no hunters stalked Vermont --
six turkeys gathered by the trees,
bobbing their jowly heads beneath the snow
to slurp the apple nectar, so fermented that
just twenty minutes later
they were reeling, and their eyes
blazed with amazing knowledge that transported them,
within their bodies, into paradise.
Despite their drunkness,
despite the ice that kept them shifting one foot
to the frozen next,
they kept their balance in a dance
of bumping lightly up against each other,
circling, brushing wings, and then --
as if their inner music paused --
they'd dip their heads back underneath the snow
and lift them up so high
their necks stretched out to twice their length
to let the trickling juice prolong their ecstacy.
And thus unfolds a moral tale:
To be plain stupid is
to be divinely blessed, and lacking that
transcendent gift, an animal as advanced as I
requires a holiday
to cultivate stupidity, to choose
one Sunday morning to know
nothing of ongoing hunger but
my body trembling in the sun,
drunk on itself, so that right here on earth,
right now, I tasted paradise --
as, so to speak, in talking turkey, I now do.
My pilgrim mind has taken flight
and then returned to join
my body stomping in the snow; and so
I raise a toast to say:
I give thanks in behalf of six dazed, drunken birds
that grace the icy view
beneath my apple trees today!

--Robert Pack


Veru nice November collection, Hegie. And I have a weakness for R C.
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