Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Fifteen Autumn Poems

"Time To Gather In"

These mild days of sun in September.
Time to gather in. There are still tufts
of cranberries in the wood, the rose-hips redden
along the stone dykes, nuts fall to a touch,
and clumps of blackberries gleam in thickets,
thrushes poke about for the last redcurrants
and the wasp sucks away at the sweet plums.
In the evenings i set my ladder aside and hang
up my basket in the shed. Meagre glaciers
already have a thin covering of new snow.
Lying in bed I hear the throb of the bristling fishers
on their way out. All night, I know, they'll glide
with staring searchlights up and down the fjord.

-- Olav H. Hauge
translated from the Norwegian by Robin Fulton

* * *


Birds circle above the hay barn.
A young bull gets up from the mud;
The tuft under his belly like a clump of grass.
He bellows; his curly throat stretched up,
His head half turned yearning upward from the wood slatted pen
Where he sleeps or tramples the sloughed manure.
The birds gather to cheep in unison.
A row of oak trees shining like waxed veneer
Ranges down windbreak.
The sky, vague blue behind a gauzy cumulus;
Pale fall sunlight glazes the barn shingles.
Now a chorus of bulls forcing music out of their bodies,
Begins and begins in terrible earnestness.
And the birds, undulating and rising, circle
And scatter over the fall ploughed strips.
What they are saying is out of their separateness.
This is the way it is. This is the way it is.

-- Ruth Stone

* * *

"Leaves in Autumn Wind"

You need no meaning more than mindless leaves
That brush their reds and yellows in bright air
As if to specify an image there
Whose disappearance can be rendered permanent;
Thus with their vanishing contained, you grieve
So quietly that it might seem you spent
Whatever sorrow might inform the scene,
Leaves brushing reds and yellows in bright air,
On finding meaning merely in what colors mean.
I still can see you underneath a tree,
Your hands outstretched to catch more evening light,
Though maybe in your mind you're watching me,
And maybe meaning means no more than sight
Can cherish, and in cherishing let be,
So that for all your minding you believe
You need no meaning more than mindless leaves.

-- Robert Pack

* * *

"October Compost"

Leaf rakes go back, go back and trees give up
more leaves than roots can use. Pack down
the pounds of locust leaves, the aspen gold
and fat catalpa bark. All summer we stacked
the pantry, hauled bushels of ears to neighbors
and the town's food bank. Now come the geese
from Canada, fields with loud flocks

pecking grain and corn. Our yard's a compost.
Bring out pitchforks and garden hose, turn
barrels of garbage for the garden, tumble,
churn it like sauerkraut steamy and damp.
All seasons whisper resurrection.
I need this gray decay. Since March,
I've wrestled bales of barbed wire,

bossed the herds, but fall brings cattle trucks.
Runt calves and old cows ride to slaughter.
Fall feeds the soil, and harvest saves
the stalks as silage to make cold cattle fat.
Fall saves migrating geese from freezing,
leads us to spring, tilling the earth
till springer cows give birth.

Christ saves us from decay
we're destined for. Soon enough, we'll shove
wheelbarrows of dark October compost
and watch the dry dirt bulge, mulch of worms
and beetles making debris a kingdom.
Come, shirtsleeve months, come
bawling calves cavorting in corrals.

-- Walt McDonald

* * *

"Underwater Autumn"

Now the summer perch flips twice and glides
a lateral fathom at the first cold rain,
the surface near to silver from a frosty hill.
Along the weed and grain of log he slides his tail.

Nervously the trout (his stream-toned heart
locked in the lake, his poise and nerve disgraced)
above the stirring catfish, curves in bluegill dreams
and curves beyond the sudden thrust of bass.

Surface calm and calm act mask the detonating fear,
the moving cray fish claw, the stare
of sunfish hovering above the cloud-stained sand,
a sucker nudging cans, the grinning maskinonge.

How do carp resolve the eel and terror here?
They face so many times this brown-ribbed fall of leaves
predicting weather foreign as a shark or prawn
and floating still above them in the paling sun.

-- Richard Hugo

* * *

"Our Song"

Stripped vine-stocks, leaves gone red and yellow
and every beaten-copper, crumpled-leather
shade between: the beauties of decay.
(Sweetheart, that's our song! Play it again!)

-- Ruth Fainlight

* * *

"Forgotten in Autumn"

It was half past seven
in autumn
and I was waiting
for someone or other.
tired of being there with me,
little by little left
and left me alone.

I was left with the sand
of the day, with the water,
of a sad week, murdered away.

'What's gone on?' the leaves
of Paris asked me. 'Who are you waiting for?'

And a few times I was humiliated,
first by the light as it left,
then by dogs, cats and policemen.

I was left alone
like a solitary horse
which knows no night or day in the grass,
only the salt of winter.

I stayed
so alone, so empty
that the leaves were weeping,
the last ones, and later
they fell like tears.

Never before
or after
did I feel so suddenly alone.
It was waiting for someone that did it --
I don't remember,
it was crazily,
and suddenly just loneliness,
that moment,
the sense of something
lost along the way,
which suddenly like the shadow itself
spread the long flag of its presence.

Later I fled from that
insane corner,
walking as quickly as possible,
as if running away from the night,
from a black and rolling boulder.
What i am telling is nothing,
but it happened to me once while I was waiting
for someone or other.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid

* * *

"An Autumn Afternoon"

The rich fume of autumn rises from the ground
In light and odor as the leaves rot marvelously

In the hot autumn sun in the brilliant sunlight.
What was green is turning to light before my eyes.

The hawthorn leaves have not yet fallen away.
The squirrels are fat. The winter is coming soon.

There's something frantic in birdflight. The shadows of wings
Print and unprint erratically on the little

Porch roof that I look out on from my window,
As if to keep taking back what has just been said.

-- David Ferry

* * *

"Just Autumn"

This autumn the trees have peace at last. They stand amid the solid
slightly contemptuous greenery, without a shade or yellow, without a grain
of red in their leaves. The grass is thick, deeply rooted in the earth's skin,
and it in no way reminds one of the fur of aging animals. Uncut roses
revolve their warm planets around unmoving insects thin as moons.
Only the monuments feel this autumn is the more tragic for being the
last. Decaying pedestals display the transience of the builders of empire.
Angels' wings and admirals' crests are falling. The philosopher's cracked
forehead reveals a terrifying void with burst blood vessels. Where the
prophet's pointer finger used to be there now floats a little spider ooked
to the Indian summer.
Gray-maned lovers walk under the eternal trees, along a path strewn
with the brittle fingers of gods and emperors.

-- Zbigniew Herbert
translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles

* * *

"Autumn Equinox"

I feel my body letting go of light
drawn to the wisdom of a harvest moon.
I feel it welcome the lengthening night
like a lover in early afternoon.

My dreams are windfall in a field gone wild.
I gather them through all the lengthening night
and when they have all been carefully piled
my body begins letting go of light.

Indian summer to leaf-fall to first frost
the memories that were carefully piled
become the dreams most likely to be lost.
My dreams are windfall in a field gone wild

now that memory has abandoned them,
now that Indian summer, leaf-fall, first frost
have become the same amazing autumn
skein of those dreams most likely to be lost.

I feel my body letting go of light.
I feel it welcome the lengthening night,
\the windfall of dreams that have long been lost
to Indian summer, leaf-fall, and first frost.

-- Floyd Skloot

* * *

"What Land Means: Autumn 1998"

The Horse Chestnut dies from the bottom up
the leaf withers from the edge inward.
Until that explosive moment, your heart
kept its secret.: No tatters on the summertime of your age.

Youngest sons aren't supposed to leave first.
Didn't you know that? abandoning all.
Overtaking autumnal brothers and sisters, you fell
asleep on your feet, the quick stride stilled
between house and fields.

The last thing seen, they say, is forever held in memory.

So you could see those fields still (by times, coasted,
cultivated, cropped), we planted you
on the down slope of a hill: Advantage to all your acres,
a family loam richest in you, Great Tree. Hold me
in view. Wait at the bottom till I coast to you.
We'll climb up together. Into green branches.

-- Anne Compton

* * *

from "Autumn Nature Notes"


Three pale foxglove lamp-mantles, in full flare
Among gritty burned-out spires of old foxgloves
Under needling sleet, in a crossing squall.

This last week, a baby hand of blossom
Among the corroded leaves, over windfall apples.

Every apple a festival of small slugs

Probably things their good time had just started.

So the old year, tired,
Smiles over his tools, fondling them a little,
As he puts them away.

-- Ted Hughes

* * *

"October Thoughts"

How one loves
this great wine
that one drinks all alone
when the evening illumines its coppered hills
not a hunter now
stalks the lowland game
the sisters of our friends
seem more beautiful
at the same time there is a thread of war
an insect pauses
then goes on.

-- Jean Follain
translated from the French by W. S. Merwin

* * *

"Autumn Fires"

Old flower-stems turn to sticks in autumn,
clutter the garden, need
the discipline of secateurs.
Choked overplus, straggle of weed,
cold souring strangling webs of root;

I pile the barrow with the lot.
Snapped twig that forgets flower and fruit,
thornbranch too hard to rot,
I stack you high for a last rite.

When twigs are built and match is set,
your death springs up like life; its flare
crowns and consumes the ended year.
Corruption changes to desire
that sears the pure and wavering air,
and death goes upward like a prayer.

-- Judith Wright

* * *


The maple in first blush,
like an apple on the edge
of reddening -- so it begins;

Later, something pulls
the leaves down, sky floods
the forks of trees.

Spendthrift, the little linden
looses the last of its gold,
clinkless coins for the wind
to hoard in heaps;

diehard, the willow clings to its
wintry slips of yellow,
fistfuls of an obsolete
currency, see them flutter.

Carpet of crispness! hard rain
of acorns, spiky
Season of loss and store --

The squirrels, grown plush,
zip up stuffed tummies
for winter.

-- Robyn Sarah

* * *
* * *

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Twelve 12-Line Poems: Round 3

For reasons that entirely elude me, the first and second installments
of "Twelve 12-Line Poems" continue to be the most accessed threads
of The Jackdaw's Nest. So, in response, here is Round 3. Enjoy.

* * *

"Still Life"

Still Life the artist called
these pears and apricots
placed on a blue tablecloth
next to the leather pouch of hares,
tied by their slender ears
like so many vegetables.

But nature morte, the French
would say, articulating "dead"
as if to tell us life is less
than life without a hare in the field,
without the actual taste
of pear on the tongue.

-- Linda Pastan

* * *

"Minus The Sea"

Each day the old man grew smaller and smaller.
Matter had begun to apologize
Politely in him
And moved back more and more --
It had to catch its breath
For another form.

The sea the old man fished in
Shrank day by day
Until in the end it couldn't be seen at all.
It must have moved its waves as well, full of fish,
God knows where.
Under some younger boats . . .

--Marin Sorescu
translated from the Romanian by Gabriela Dragnea,
Stuart Friebert and Adriana Varga

* * *


A poet because his hand
goes first to his heart and then to his head.

The catcher receives the pitch
the way a blotter takes an ink spill.

The hitter makes much show
of wringing out his bat.

On the mound he grins
with all his teeth at once
when the umpire inspects the ball
suddenly dry as alum.

He draws a juicy salary bonus
because when he pitches he waters the lawn.

-- Fred Chappell

* * *

"The Clock"

I tick, I tick, and have no sense of time.
My hands go round. At intervals I chime
To count the hours and minutes that to me
Are meaningless numbers turning endlessly,
Because my world is one without a 'when',
Without a 'late' or 'early', 'now' or 'then',
With no events, with nothing to arrange
Or mark. Your time is movement, growth and change.
I do not change or grow, but for your sake
Inside me wheels revolve until I break.
It's you that move me. If you don't I stick.
You wind me up. I tick, I tick, I tick.

-- Michael Hamburger

* * *

"The Pond at Dusk"

A fly wounds the water but the wound
soon heals. Swallows tilt and twitter
overhead, dropping now and then toward
the outward-radiating evidence of food.

The green haze on the trees changes
into leaves, and what looks like smoke
floating over the neighbor's barn
is only apple blossoms.

But sometimes what looks like disaster
is disaster: the day comes at last,
and the men struggle with the casket
just clearing the pews.

--Jane Kenyon

* * *

"All Thought"

What's all this commotion, as of
king-wings in migration
a strange fluttering in the boughs
in the great night of souls

In the little oak grove
out back the dying
plum is choked out
by the young oak

Above, the vast blue
climbed by a cloud-wall
]suggests all thought's

-- Tom Clark

* * *

"The Hand at Callow Hill Farm"

Silence. the man defined
The quality, ate at his separate table
Silent, not because silence was enjoined
But was his nature. It shut him round
Even at outdoor tasks, his speech
Following upon a pause, as though
A hesitance to comply had checked it --
Yet comply he did, and willingly:
Pause and silence: both
Were essential graces, a reticence
Of the blood, whose calm concealed
The tutelary of that upland field.

-- Charles Tomlinson

* * *


The woods a flock of green sheep flowing down the hills
And the sea below splashed itself itself blue in the sun.
Clouds bloomed in the sky, floating like water lilies
And we were still little girls.

There was one among us with beloved eyes
And all of us envied her till we forgot.
and one was so fair and stood up so straight.
And when they called her in class, she could always reply.

And I'd go out in the sun to the nearby field
And love the clouds, spin stories about them all,
And I had plenty of time to ponder sorrow
From the first gray of autumn till the end of summer gold.

-- Dahlia Ravikovitch
translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

* * *


Tempestuous breaths! we watch a girl
walking in her garden -- no flowers, a wintry shrub
and the cold clouds passing over. To
each dark check a chapped panting mouth is pressed

and through the cloth against her flesh
she feels the flashes of our heat. One breath,
heavier than the rest, is penetrating
the folds where her cool limbs join each other
in careless reception of the celebration.

She is listening to music. And I, I
have joined that torso to that thigh with this,
my breath, soot from a volcano, watching her walk.

-- Frank O'Hara

* * *

"Bogliasco: The Church Square"

A photographer develops film,
the sexton scrutinizes
walls and trees,
boys play ball,
a dry cleaner purges the conscience
of this quiet town,
three elderly ladies discuss the world's end --
but evening brings back
the sea's tumult
and its din
returns the day just past
into oblivion.

--Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

* * *


It is not lost, it is moving forward always,
Shrewd, and huge as thunder, equally dark.
Soft paws kiss its continents, it walks
Between lava avenues, it does not tire.

It is not lost, tell me how can you lose it?
Can you lose the shadow which stalks the sun?
It feeds on mountains, it feeds on seas,
It loves you most when you are most alone.

do not deny it, do not blaspheme it,
do not light matches on the dark of its shores.
It will breathe you out, it will recede from you.
What is here, what is with you now, is yours.

-- Gwendolyn MacEwen

* * *

"On the Steps of the Met"

When the first wasp would not stop flying near me I sat still
and let it stay. All thin legs and yellow, it did not find my skin
but the silvered mouth of the Pepsi can. It crawled inside

and then another joined it there. I let those two
fill themselves while I finished my greasy knish and thought
how I would soon not be here and how painful

not wanting anyone. One wasp staggered out
and flew, and the the other, and in Manhattan
they were two cabs on their way in one direction. Inside,

what I had loved most: the folds of the woman's scarf
in Vermeer's portrait, their depth of shadow,
how the fabric came so close without touching.

-- Stephanie Bolster

* * *
* * *

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Twelve Nature Poems

"Queen Anne's Lace"

It's a kind of flower
that if you didn't know it
you'd pass by the rest of your life.

But once it's been pointed out
you'll look for it always,
even in places
where you know it can't possibly be.

You'll never tire
of bending over to examine,
of marveling at this
shyest filigree of wonder
born among grasses.

You'll imagine poems
as brief, as spare,
so natural with themselves
as to take your breath away.

-- Raymond Souster

* * *

"The Beloved Hemorrhaged Anemones"

The beloved hemorrhaged anemones,
the purple land glittered with his wounds,
the first of its songs: the blood of love shed by gods,
and the last of it is blood . . .
O people of Canaan celebrate
your land's spring and set yourself aflame
like its flowers, O people of Canaan stripped
of your weapons, and become complete!
It's your good luck that you chose agriculture as a profession.
It's your bad luck that you chose the gardens
near god's borders,
where the sword writes clay's tale . . .
So let the grain spikes be your eternal army,
and let immortality be hunting dogs
in wheat fields,
and let the stags be free
like a pastoral poem . . .

The beloved hemorrhaged anemones,
and the rocks on the slope yellowed from
prolonged labour contractions,
then turned red,
then water flowed red
in our spring's veins . . .
The first of our songs is the blood of love
that gods shed,
and the lest is the blood shed by iron gods . . .

-- Mahmoud Darwish
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

* * *

"Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri"

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.

-- Mona Van Duyn

* * *

"White-Faced Heron"

The white-faced heron seems grammar and action
as the sun sharpens poise and balance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

Clots and twists of cloud confuse the fraction,
divisible quantity of math and trance,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action.

The surety of her being creates an equation,
dawn and sunset trigger clairvoyance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

We invest ourselves in her volatile station,
formulate moods on the fact of her presence,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action.

It's the pattern of speech we define as tension,
the hope of her being there, the thrill of chance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

Language shapes a waterbird's intention,
pasture and water shape her stance,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

-- John Kinsella

* * *

"Creek Trout"

Silver, dark-spotted, each spot with a pale halo,
its sides striped with a rainbow band,

it is a flawless swimmer, and knows its way perfectly
through the water, as if its smooth, quick body

could feel the length of the creek,
from the mountain-side source of heavy rain to the inlet-meeting mouth.

To see the trout, to gaze after it
as the doors of the water open before it,

as the innumerable chambers of the creek open before it,
each chamber flowing through the other,

each new exultation, a new feeling of the touch of the creek,
a new entering and entering,

is to look through water
in which the trout becomes a single brilliant journeying grain,

a darting purplish ray, a piece of the voluptuous refuse of the first stars,
a glimpse of a crystal look,

and ;it is to look through the trout
as through a living lens, imagining what the trout knows --

through flesh wholly a vivid eye,
blind sight seeing light before it shines --

before the trout as soon disappears
behind the final door of the water,

shimmering, shadowy traces, connecting up all its traces
somewhere on the other side of the world.

-- Russell Thornton

* * *

"plum-branch galaxy"

plum-branch galaxy
hoarfrost dark grasses

breath, sounding web
thistle listen cloud

moth quicken fire
seed silver, mirage

a wind mirror pond
shine white hyacinth

--Ronald Johnson

* * *

"The Silence of Plants"

Our one-sided acquaintance
grows quite nicely.

I know what a leaf, petal, ear, cone, stalk is,
what april and December do to you.

Although my curiosity is not reciprocal,
I specially stoop over some of you,
and crane my neck at others.

I've got a list of names for you:
maple, burdock, hepatica,
mistletoe, heath, juniper, forget-me-not,
but you have none for me.

We're traveling together.
But fellow passengers usually chat,
exchange remarks at least about the weather,
or about the stations rushing past.

We wouldn't lack for topics: we've got a lot in common.
The same star keeps us in its reach.
We cast shadows based on the same laws.
We try to understand things, each in our own way,
and what we don't know brings us closer too.

I'll explain as best I can, just ask me:
what seeing with two eyes is like,
what my heart beats for,
and why my body isn't rooted down.
But how to answer unasked questions,
while being furthermore a being so totally
a nobody to you.

Undergrowth, coppices, meadows, rushes --
everything I tell you is a monologue,
and its not you who listens.

Talking with you is essential and impossible.
Urgent in this hurried life
and postponed to never.

-- Wislawa Szymborska
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

* * *

"Pale Butterwort"

Pale butterwort's smoky blue colours your eyes:
I thought of this when I tried to put together
Your every feature, but a buzzard distracted me
As it quartered the tree-tops and added its skraik
Or screel to the papery purr of the dragonflies'
Love-flight, and with so much happening overhead
I forgot the pale butterwort there on the ground
Spreading its leaves like a starfish and digesting
Insects that squirm on each adhesive tongue and
Feed the terror in your eyes, your smoky blue eyes.

--Michael Longley

* * *

"With Quevedo, In Springtime"

Everything has flowered in
these fields, apple trees,
hesitant blues, yellow weeds,
and in green grass the poppies thrive.
The inextinguishable sky, the new air
of each day, the invisible shine within,
that gift of a wide and vast springtime.
But spring hasn't come to my room.
Diseases, dubious kisses,
that stuck like the church's ivy
to the black windows of my life,
and love alone is never enough, not even the wild
and expansive fragrance of spring.

And, to you, what can these mean now:
the orgiastic light, the evidence unfolding
like a flower, the green song
in the green leaves, the presence
of the sky with its goblet of freshness?
External spring, do not torment me,
unleashing wine and snow in my arms,
corolla and battered bouquet of sorrow,
just for today give me the sleep of nocturnal
leaves, the night of the dead, the metals, the roots
and so many extinguished springtimes
that awaken to life every spring.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by William O'Daly

* * *

"On a Church Lawn"

Dandelion cavalry, light little saviors,
baffle the wind, they ride so light.
They surround a church and outside the window
utter their deaf little cry: "If you listen
well, music won't have to happen."

After service they depart singly
to mention in the world their dandelion faith:
"God is not big; He is right."

--William Stafford

* * *

"Once More"

Once more by the brook the alder leaves
turn mauve, bronze, violet, beautiful
after the green of crude summer; galled
black stems, pithy, tangled, twist in the
flesh-colored vines of wild cyclamen.
Mist drifts below the mountaintop
in prismatic tatters. The brook is full,
spilling down heavily, loudly, in silver
spate from the beaver ponds in the high
marshy meadows. the year is sinking:
heavily, loudly, beautifully. Deer move
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples.
The pileated woodpecker thumps a dead elm
slowly, irregularly, meditatively.
Like a broken telephone a cricket rings
without assertion in dead asters and
goldenrod; asters gone cloudy with seed,
goldenrod burnt and blackened. A gray trout
rests under the lip of glacial stone. One
by one the alder leaves plunge down to earth,
veering, and lie there, glowing, like a shirt
of Nessus. My heart in my ribs does what it
has done occasionally all my life: thumps and
heaves suddenly in irregular rhythm that makes
me gasp. How many times has this season turned
and gone down? How many! I move heavily
into the bracken, and the deer stand still
a moment, uncertain, before they break away,
snorting and bounding heavily before me.

-- Hayden Carruth

* * *

"Upset, Unable to Sleep, I Go for a Walk and
Stumble Upon Some Geese"

Bright dime
cut in two, one half
in the sky, the other fallen on the pond,
but no one will bother to pick it up,
the moon will never be whole again.
Up and down the grassy hillocks
they follow one another, walking
in groups under the grey glow.
I haven't even startled them, this is no hour
for a human. Together here they act
differently, like themselves,
warm-blooded, clumsy, bitching
at one another in a common language.
I wish I were asleep. They are large and warm.
I'd like to hold one of them,
hold, be held.

--Roo Borson

* * *
* * *

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?