Down here the long summer ends at midnight.
A dark wind flies down fast, on an impulse,
unplanned for and ill thought out. It just comes.
At first you think you are dreaming. If the trees,
shaken from top to bottom, fear it,
you cannot tell. They wake you, whispering
familiar words in a familiar voice.
Then you are aware of other undoings: dead branches,
set free, comb the lawn and come to rest, empty,
against a corner of the shed. The shed door opens
and shuts, opens and shuts.
Pulled up without warning from the long corridor,
the ceiling made of sand, the wingless flight,
leaving the party where you spoke easily to the dead,
you feel for some time you must still be dreaming.
The bed surprises you, it has grown so cold.
What does this darkness mean, blown and blowing?
Who has pulled the blanket of summer off?
The clock’s blue digits claim it is tomorrow.
Only hours later will events be revealed:
when morning comes it is the light of autumn,
a flawless sky and old leaves coming down.
Walking out, there is the shock of sun and cold.
The air seems too sharp to breathe.
The cats, tucked under and wise, watch you
from rail and rooftop. They are relieved:
the rain is gone, the long fever broken.
It is as though your life has been removed,
and almost replaced with something else.
Low in the west not, the moon remembers.
It is pale but still there, unmistakable.
And now on every leaning stalk and flower,
a fuss of wings, a clamor of hunger.
They know the time of feeding must be short:
Get it now, get it now, they say.
It is no good, this looking to the past.
Let the old photographs stick to themselves.
Let the yellowed envelopes yellow,
let them crumble. Let the words fade.
Let the old sentiments live out their lives
untouched, secure in what they were,
holy as ever.
you will only see small young faces caught
in the light of joy and bravado.
What did they know?
you will only see the slender forms of young
lovers, not who they are now. Not even
who they were then.
Looking back, you will only find sad
fierce letters, postmarking loss
from Camden, Hartford, and Sagamore:
where are you, where are you? Even then
you were alone, and knew it. Looking back,
you must see how much of love is failure.
This is autumn: live with it.
Recognize that this sharp light, this blue
against yellow, this last foolish leaf about to fall,
this sudden slap of cold against your face:
this is what there is now.