Anniversarius 41: Autumn Dragged Screaming


So where is Autumn?
     It is the week of Halloween
          and — nothing.
The maples are green, oaks green,
     willows even greener,
pines frowning their drooping arms
as if to say, get on with it, already;
the drama is long past over.

Bird flocks rehearse their southern pilgrimage
     but come right back
to feast anew on unchilled worm and beetle.

Damp rain sogs down,
     slime mold slides silently
          on and up the rotting beech trunk.
Mushrooms proliferate
          at an illicit rate.
The spiders are working overtime,
     harvestmen in jitter-skitter,
a Macy’s parade of Daddy-Long-Legs.
Sparrows engorged, squirrels spherical
     with acorn overflow,
eating all and burying nothing.
And the flowers just keep on,
     well, flowering.
Only the birches are shivering,
reading truly the Northern Lights,
the wisping fall of Orionid meteors,
white trunk flagpoles alert, on edge,
expectant pencils stuck in the ground.

It might have gone on this way:
     Indian October
          into Mexican November,
into a luridly Amazon December.
Today the unseasonable yucca plant,
     tomorrow the writhing anaconda!

It might have gone on,
     had not a thirteen-foot truck
somewhere just south of Pittsburgh
slide under an eleven-foot overpass,
the top peeled off like a sardine can.
One dull brown oak leaf escaped it,
     and then a blast
of sumac and willow and locust and maple,
     an Arctic air blast,
dust-devils, the choking lung-clot
     of burning leaf-piles.
And as the oblivious driver
     wends southward, southerly, south,
intending to take the autumn hostage,
he instead cracks open the heavens.
The horizon turns yellow instantly,
    the soft green lap of leaves
becomes the crackle-crisp
chatter of Rattatosk, the gossip squirrel.
Up, up Ygdrassil the World Ash
the singe of Autumn rises.
Red the long carpet in maple grove,
fiery the brush fire burn of euonymous,
yellow the leaf-sky in silhouette by azure.
Come winter, then, if you must,
     come autumn now,
a world-held breath of defiance.
I go, I go, a leaf, in glory.

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