The moon drops one or two feathers into the field. The dark wheat listens. Be still. Now. There they are, the moon’s young, trying Their wings. Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone Wholly, into the air. I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe Or move. I listen. The wheat leans back toward its own darkness, And I lean toward mine.
In the years to come they will say, “They fell like the leaves In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.” November has come to the forest, To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen. The year fades with the white frost On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows, Where the deer tracks were black in the morning. Ice forms in the shadows; Disheveled maples hang over the water; Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream. Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold. The yellow maple leaves eddy above them, The glittering leaves of the cottonwood, The olive, velvety alder leaves, The scarlet dogwood leaves, Most poignant of all.
In the afternoon thin blades of cloud Move over the mountains; The storm clouds follow them; Fine rain falls without wind. The forest is filled with wet resonant silence. When the rain pauses the clouds Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls. In the evening the wind changes; Snow falls in the sunset. We stand in the snowy twilight And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud. Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight, Glimmering with floating snow. An owl cries in the sifting darkness. The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
I think he knows I’m alive, having come down The three steps of the back porch And given me a good once over. All afternoon He’s been moving back and forth, Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs, While all about him the great fields tumble To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky To be where he is, wild with all that happens. He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows Living in the blond heart of the wheat. This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots, Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.
In my Autumn garden I was fain To mourn among my scattered roses; Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses To Autumn’s languid sun and rain When all the world is on the wane! Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June, Nor heard the nightingale in tune.
Broad-faced asters by my garden walk, You are but coarse compared with roses: More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses, Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk, That least and last which cold winds balk; A rose it is though least and last of all, A rose to me though at the fall.
The storm is moving on, and as the wind
rises, the oaks and pines let go
of all the snow on their branches,
an abrupt change of heart,
and the air turns utterly white.
Woooh, says the wind, and I stop
where I am, put out my arms
and look upward, allowing
myself to disappear. It is good
to be here, and not here...
I see fresh cloven prints
under the apple tree, where deer come
nosing for windfalls. They must be
near me now, and having stopped
when I stopped, begin to move again.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now how comfortable it will be to touch the earth instead of the nothingness of the air and the endless freshets of wind? And don’t you think the trees, especially those with mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep inside their bodies? And don’t you hear the goldenrod whispering goodbye, the everlasting being crowned with the first tuffets of snow? The pond stiffens and the white field over which the fox runs so quickly brings out its long blue shadows. The wind wags its many tails. And in the evening the piled firewood shifts a little, longing to be on its way.