Posts Tagged ‘foliage’

Another trip through the warmth.

Another season of growth and wonder.

Another graceful, spiraling dance ending in forgotten stillness.

Am I writing about the lifespan of a leaf?


September 22, 1972.

September 22, 1972. I do not exist yet, but I will in roughly two weeks.

I am reaching for new things to say about autumn but it all feels like cliche.

Life, death, the onslaught of cold, the encroachment of darkness, the crispness in the air, the last brilliant flames of foliage — you don’t need me to lead you through the drill.

My grandpa has more nuance to offer on the subject than I do.

Look at the shading on his leaf, and the pattern it traces through the air. Another instance where a picture is worth a thousand words.

Look also at the equinoctial temperature that complicated year — a high of 78, and a quite temperate low of 60. Short-sleeve weather, not flannel.

Another reminder that life is not as clear-cut as we sometimes make it, and that the calendar doesn’t really get the final say. When does summer really end and fall begin? How about youth and middle age? Middle age and old?

(David Crosby, who was in some position to know, once suggested that what people thought of as “the Sixties” actually lasted from 1965 to 1975. I’m not sure what Crosby was doing in September 1972, but I bet it was potent.)

A more complicated subject than it seems, autumn … and I am coming up blank trying to find interesting things to say about its arrival.

I look forward to inhaling its essence for the next couple of months, anyway.


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With apologies to William H. Blumenau, and perhaps to Robert Lowell as well, and to anyone from whom I have unconsciously cribbed a turn of phrase.

Perhaps by the back picket-fence
that edges the downslope untended;

or by the garage,
a dour shed with door-windows
no eyes peer through;

or by the bulkhead,
flat gray and sloped
above the dank steps downward;

the first leaf swirls and lands.

Newly fifty-six,
my grandfather serves
as tenant-king and head of household.
The leaf is his responsibility,
one more duty on the flannel-clad back
that has no chance to falter.
His are Finance, and Administration,
and Transportation,
and Buildings and Grounds.

Fifty-six years old.
The sign-posts change and warp.
One child engaged, the other off at school;
the school-bus’ backfire bark is alien,
its yellow burns the eye.

The wheels fall off dynasties.
The Yankees rock and founder in tenth place;
eight thousands fill the Stadium.
Marchers throng in Washington,
the ghettos heave and erupt,
solid ground buckles
like a grave-shroud under weight,
a dank step downward.

Flash forward to my own autumns —
old jeans and cold cider,
back-to-school crushes,
cross-country races
on pace against infinity,
crisp gasping breaths
in the austere sun.
Autumn is the time of rebirth.
Have I got it backwards?

The slight back under flannel
has a steel core
tested by responsibility,
by the loss of a father too soon,
by Depression with its wrench and want.

Those who grow up
on a swaying deck
inherit the gift of balance.

Change and challenge endure.
Old enough to know,
young enough to respond,
my grandfather braces for turbulence
and looks forward.

Then, as now, the poets of the young
declare that times are changing.
Their fathers ask drily
what tipped them off.

Perhaps by the fence,
perhaps by the garage,
perhaps by the bulkhead,
perhaps orange or red or yellow,
the first leaf’s spark catches the eye,
a veined telegram of change:
“New seasons are coming.
Adapt or die.”

My grandfather does not stoop to receive it.
He’s already heard.

Sept. 23, 1966

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