The ginkgo by the library
dithered all October
then changed its mind
all at once to yellow.
One maple near the chapel
turned early to orange
then held on, stubborn,
as its leaves dried to paper.
Frost outlined each ivy leaf
at the edge of staff parking:
a silver-white assertion
of the borders of things.
My father, always eloquent before, stumbles painfully now,
particularly if he’s trying to talk directly to me or others.
So he turns his face aside, speaks towards the trees outside.
“I would love to make the shrimp bisque in this book,” he tells himself,
or muses, “One of my favorite movies is Invincible. Top three,” as if no one else
were in the room. The only way he can make the words come unimpeded.
Like stutterers whose speech smooths only when they sing. Like the man
with Parkinson’s who can cross a floor only when it’s painted like stairs.
The morning dawned cold and bright,
and I felt happy.
The poem I’d meant to write
paled before the day in front of me.
It was itself the poem.
All day I read it, the slash
of the jet’s trail, evolving form
till it became bar, feathers, ash,
then nothing. Brittle leaves
littered the sidewalk, tossed
like bets to the track after a race
by fools who think they’ve lost.
Pick up the ticket. Cash it in.
Celebrate your fortune. Begin again.
What we know, we know only
because we once did not
back then when we did not know we did not
What we want, we want solely
because we learned what it was to want
endured that gnaw, that knot of lack in our gut
What we will is simply what we do or do not
And do not wills just as surely as do
Our fate arrives: equally final by either route
My young friend tells me they now come
individually wrapped like candy. Some
market focus group showed they sold better.
So, musical fruit. Easy BMs. Furtive fiber.
My brother will not ever immerse his fingers
in the water of the hot tub. For hours on end
like a surgeon he holds up his hands, removed
from harm, to keep them smooth. The stigma lingers,
unlike the indigestible in a dried plum – which they’re
calling them these days, because it’s uncool to care
too much about the inner workings of one’s gut.
Most homely and unfashionable of all dried fruit:
oh, forgive our shame. Thank you for your stealth
and sorbitol, and for your contribution to our health.
Little larva of the botfly, what
sort of pale soft mooch are you
you whose name we filched, too
to truncate the word for metal wrought
by force into a mind of sorts? Or a hive
of oversimple yeas and nays, who sways
and turns brains to and fro, lends weight
to fame, keeps flesh and ire alive
chews over it long past its date?
Even excreted, you leave a trace
a trail of slime, smear of detritus
testifying to the devoured’s fate.
You pass whole, pupate, having first hectored
what you ate: our innate unholy altered vector.
A fine, crisp slice of moon.
Tomatoes blotchy, furred
now on one side. One chirp
at sunup. The bane and boon
of the fading year. Harvest
and glean and what’s left behind:
rustling stalk and feathered pod,
all that’s sweetest, best, and last.
The roundness of the pumpkin
which houses flesh and seed,
the promise of another round
of vine and fruit with tender skin
that toughens as the summer turns,
but slowly, and even as it burns.