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
* * *
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
* * *
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
* * *
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
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.
so alone, so empty
that the leaves were weeping,
the last ones, and later
they fell like tears.
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,
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
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
* * *
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.
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.
with the brittle fingers of gods and emperors.
-- Zbigniew Herbert
translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles
* * *
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
* * *
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
* * *
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
-- Robyn Sarah
* * *
* * *