Come In Out of Autumn's Chill

THESE are sometimes called "the melancholy days, the saddest of the year." It is a time when summer fades and nostalgia sets in - longing, a loneliness for what is gone or going.

I am thinking of the past.

The pages of my kitchen calendar are fixed on autumn. It is time to mourn for it again in poems that try to flash with color, or turn pale with thoughts of ice and sleet. Winter Song

Now I know beneath the flush

of fall, earth's bones are pale;

below the summer's fingered flush

of waves is winter's wail.

Now the wind takes on the feel

of proud, strong poverty

and a note of ice and steel

is sounded by the sea.

Bareness of the bough completes

barrenness of earth

and the dearth of green repeats

bleakness of its birth.

Wild the wave that rumbles

on the snow-striped lonely reef

as the autumn crumbles

leaf ... on ... leaf ....

I have been to town briefly to get supplies for the dreary weather that has been forecast. (My inclination is to anticipate that the dramas of nature will be played out in mist and rain.)

No sea wails beside our Midwestern ranch house. Snow does not cast cold white quilts over the slope of my hill. But the leaves continue to fall, russet and unburnished walnut, flashing reflectively down on the air, the ground, and the year. Loose leaves tumble along the concrete sidewalks, rustle over my boots as I hurry home. Frost Fire

Summer has taken off down these streets

like a defeated beggar, bearing away

her slightly damaged wares, the bedraggled


of fruits and flowers, incense, an array

of peach-flavored suns and other sundry


She slips along the walls, trailing her skirts

like straggling long grey shadows into the


while out of the hinterlands, its hills and


Fall, like a Halloween prankster gaily sallies

forth on a heyday on the town and asserts

himself on windows and feathered scrawlings,


sedate banks of leaves on rooftops, or on a


surrounding a branch. Then, leaving, out of


he drops a spark and sets the whole thing


I stop at the mailbox, near our driveway. Lest I be disappointed, I am trying not to expect anything; but I am wishing for a letter from someone whom I met for the first time, on a day like this, years ago.

He was, then, a complete stranger. He came to my house to ask for directions (which I did not know). He knocked on the door sharply, and it was a surprise to me, in the quiet and quiescence of the room where I write.

"Do you recall?" I wrote later in a letter that I sent to him. "Strangers, we stood in the gloom of my half-opened doorway and talked about poetry...."

(And the weather! Without reason! We both wore raincoats and had nothing else to do.)

"You shivered. I asked you in. We took a walk." That was the way it was. There was an eagerness in us to enjoy something unusual, like storm; perhaps discover a kindred soul. At the Edge of Winter

Come walk with me! The hills are brown.

The trees are stark, the clouds bear down

with their profound immensities

which ought not be left to freeze

among insentient boughs! Come let us go

into the changing world, and know

the reasons for the shift of sky

from blue to grey, the rules whereby

the winds turn from the south to north

and the little gusts of snow sweep forth!

Let us grow wind-worried and cold!

Let us get anxious at the bold

threat of dark to come down quick

and brush us off, as one would flick

ash from a sleeve! We must not grieve

over all we have to leave

of color, fragrance, and the sun,

but seek out what is being done

by overcasts and storm to roll

out challenges that thrill the soul!

At home, now, I sit in my living room and sort poems. I think about that walk and what it meant to me. How it introduced me to a long period of association and a friendship that, in the fevered unction of pledges, we vowed "would never die!"

I remember that our steps matched, our shoulders swung companionably as we roved the glamorous paths among wet and withered wild flowers, tattered clouds and trees, a leaden pond.

Our speech and manners indicated that we probably could be friends at any time or place. Our moods were harmonious. Still, a certain stiffness often intrudes on amity after extended separations....

A letter would have been good to receive today; but there had not been one, and doubtless would not be. My friend and I were both older, busier, and had responsibilities other than ourselves. Even if my friend came for a visit (and I did not expect that) there would be immense space to cover to achieve consanguinity. There were words we might not quite dare to speak, confidentialities we would never indulge in. (Although once we had.)

Of course we would still be friends. In a way! Wouldn't we? (I consoled myself!)

Perhaps not. We may sometimes think that we can never change, but that is not necessarily so. Like the seasons of summer and spring, affections may drain off, or end in conflagrations that wound or destroy.

I hear a car passing - or pausing. My window pane is delicately draped in patterns of white fern.

I stand to look out and see if the postman at last is passing. If he goes on, there will be no letter.

Do you believe that a knock at the door came at that moment? No? I confess! It came somewhat later.

Someone - then - stood on the steps, consulting a sheet of paper. It looked familiar. So did the friend who held it! There was no upward glance, but I heard that magnetic voice.

"Is this the place where the poet lives?" It asked.

I laughed. "Sometimes!"

"I know her well! She wrote poems for me once. I thought I'd stop and say, `Thank you!' " The upward glance came quickly now, with the smile. How Warm Our Shelter Was

Do you recall? You came across a mile

or so of bitter wind and snow to me,

to take my hand, sit by my chair and smile

our friendship into being over tea!

It made my winter. Never was a cup

more sociable than that we shared that year!

What was there, then, that we did not bring up

of faith, philosophy, of hope and cheer?

Craftsmen, we fitted careful words in place

to make mosaics we could both admire.

Life had such meaning, then; time had such


How warm our shelter was! How strong the


"Do you remember?"

"Yes!" I answered. "Dear friend, come in!"

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