This time of year, I often remember my college days. I would sit in my dorm room, and in the carrels of the university library, and on picnic tables by Big Chico Creek, breathing in poetry. I took in long, deep breaths as one does on entering a bakery on a rainy day.
There was an autumn feel to it; a descent into more sublime atmospheres. Leaves fell and crunched underfoot as we walked to class. In those days, there was no pumpkin spice everything. There was Bly and his snowbanks north of the house; Stafford with his images of geese and rivers; and there was Wright with his equine redemption and industrial grief, his momentous confession of a wasted life, “as the evening darkens and comes on.”
It’s the poet’s job to be outdoors a bit longer than others as the days shorten and The Corn Moon appears. As the fog rolls in at the end of the day and the pumpkins lose their green camouflage, we must continue taking notes.
There is a certain sadness in the house, even as the fires are banked for morning. Someone who shined our shoes won’t do that for us anymore. Somewhere deep in our ritual DNA, we begin lighting candles against the universal fear of what the shadows hide. Summer is over.
Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.
~ James Wright