White frost huddles in long shadows
the sun flings across lawns.
Last leaves are golden-yellow, brown.
There should be smoke, woodsmoke,
leafsmoke curling to hang in air,
and someone selling chestnuts.
It’s warm today; sun evoking autumnal glow
Yellow and golden-brown and green all on one tree
And a Maple splash of scarlet; the sky clear
But the blue a little faint, shy, and moist;
Leaves beginning to fall. They all will fall,
And there will be a day when even the poplar
Will be silent, black, and still.
My leaves have been falling long unnoticed
Until weakened muscles and a tiredness
I could not at all explain
Made their mark, though inside
This autumnal glow is as alive as then:
Beeches echoing the rise of the sun;
Between strokes and with geese overhead
The rowing eight’s bow singing on a quiet river;
Warm silence in a secluded garden;
My sweetheart’s breasts;
The vast darkness and tiny candles
In the great cathedral; the silence, inside and out,
As my father died; new life emerging
From a womb; and music- at dusk the cello
Through an open window bringing me to stop,
To listen, and when the music ended, it did not end.
And such astonishment at the words of
Eliot and Hesse, knowing the truth must be near
For I felt it in my blood.
How many more autumnal days
How many more autumns now
Until the last leaf falls.
Mortality mortality, what does it mean?
Reprinted by permission of Parabola (the Magazine “Where Spiritual Traditions Meet”) where it appeared in the Summer 2010 issue, vol 35 no 2.