Summer dies. The long days wane away.
The heat in the sky melts like lead to liquid pools.
The hills beyond are baked as white as clay.
Now creep in the gentle autumn ghouls
Trailing their silken shawls of a Lethe-
an mist. Shadows warp, gourds enlarge.
And now what is always there but not
Quite clear — that blot lurking on the vision’s marge —
Emerges with the year: unresting death,
The slow blood sloshing with every breath
Upon the bone-carved door. The senses clot.
Blue, blue days, windy days. The brittle clack of
Leaves and their soft collisions in the dust.
Dusty smells, leaf-fractured streets, the trees above
Hissing thinly, like a pit of snakes. Must
It all be quite so beautiful yet so hard to bear?
This softly killing air with its furnace blast
Of fume and whispered currents of decay,
Must it seep into my bones? Must it come so fast?
One by one the rib cages of the leaves tear
From their stems like wax. Big trees go bare. The glare
Is great, extinction certain. Life won’t let life stay.
Now the morning grass lies flat, blanched and cold with frost.
The sickles swing in the apple trees
Whose limbs are stiff and leak like ink across
The voided sky. A chopper fleet of bees
Sack the throat of the friendly hollyhocks.
They sweetly sway, but at what cost? At what cost are
These people-sized flowers born? Why bloom
At all? To what end? There at the field’s far
Edge, where scarecrows spill their guts and the pale shocks
Of corn glow white, the thud of fruit sounds like rocks
On the hardened earth, and a goat coughs in the gloom.
The hunt sweeps out. Stag are bled, hung from their hocks
In the boughs: throat-gashed, reeking, with antlers chipped,
Disgorging chunked gallons into the groin-high stalks
Where late the grasshoppers arced and flipped.
Sweetly sour fall, with all your puffball that glow
Like alien skulls in the lemon-lime glades,
Glades choked with moss and mold. Yeasty earth, rains
Distilling punky tea as color fades
And hoof prints are raised intaglio
On the forest floor. Across the ground below,
Vapor hangs above the stubble plains.
And scuffed-up apples, so convex
And so supple, come raining down with muted
Clops. The cottonwoods are spending gold. Complex
Odors — woodsmoke, crushed grass, denuded
Bark — cast a pall. The sun is warm, the water cold,
Streams die quiet in their empty beds.
Stout-chested robins with their wind-mussed
Hair, like shabby Halloween décor, jerk their heads,
Leer. Last gnats everywhere ignite gold
In the long last rays of the sun. Old
Flies fall off. The summer moths have turned to dust.
We live a little while, a little while
And we die. Our wings are mutable. This blown-
Up shadow of me, hinged across a pile
Of bone-white rocks, and once so small, is now grown
Tall and unclear, in danger (I fear)
Of slipping into nothingness. It’s slouched
And leaning toward the extreme sea wall.
The eternal surf is booming. Insects crouched
On wobbly knees stare into the sere
And melon vault. And do they, too, sense an ending near,
Or care? Like me, both love and hate this lovely fall?
The year grows old. A wan crepuscular light.
Time now for thought, time for bloody autumnal wine.
Time for walking into the complicated night
Beneath molten skies and moaning trees that line
Like sentries the heaved-up, humpbacked, clicking walks.
Pretty warts of lichen are tattooed all about.
The squash exudes an oily musk. Gaudy gourds
Bloat fast, tubers weird and curved like trout
Beside these utterly lifeless rocks.
Among a murder of crows, one groks
From the deathless firs, and crickets strum their chords.
Is this my soul, then, expiring whitely
Into the unanimous dusk? The clouds beyond
Look similar. Harvest moon is lifting lightly
Within — gorged and pocked, a lobeshaped flaxen-blond
Or a skull of ice, soaring up new at the dying
Edge of day, while simultaneously streaks
Of a burgundy-and-purple sunset slaughter
Bloom like flowers over the western peaks.
Snows to come will come soundless, hushing the crying
World. Full season’s here. The geese are flying
Like arrows across the icy water.