You’ll know that summer’s ended. The last
Of the white roses, pressed into a book,
Already stains the pages, and the writing
Disappears into sepia. It was a story
Of bicycles and a garish headband.
There might even have been a glacier
Blinding in midsummer sunlight
And a white linen spread at the foot of the glacier.
Darker and busy, autumn is easier.
Peopled with the quickness of one by one,
Each awaiting judgment and the bare thorn
Of his peculiar fate, the season crowds
Nearly all the whiteness out of the world.
The glacier is gone, boys and girls, deep into your book.
Where the trees blackened, I saw,
Quickly, three deer lean into goldenness.
It seems, although wildfires rage
Out of control, this world remembers
Some portion of its first purposes:
Superfluous beauty; the sharp pangs
Of immediacy at the edges of death;
And color, needless but more precious
Than our human love. Where the trees
Agreed in terrific nightfall, three deer
Maneuvered genesis into plain
View, into a child’s paint-box
Of happy excellence. This world
Dreams itself an animal leaning
Into the next world disappearing.
A dove spoke out of his spinning globe of air,
And the pain eased, and the wind shifted
Starlight away from the rooftree onto
A brightening window. This world
Is the white shadow of unsuspected
Constellations. To the east of Orion,
The centurion’s servant rises out of bed,
And his shadow eases the pain of glaciers
And of the suffering communities
Of roof men and river men. A dove
In a spinning globe of air announces
Christmas to the magma in each of us.
Starlight fills those windows we mistook
For eyes. The night sky is our burning book.
There is no poem
Except the early morning
Dream of a poem gleaming
Severally in the water light
Of trees blackened by rain
A phosphorescence of nothing
As of a fire leaving only
Slave quarters standing
And the plinths of gods
Too foolish to seek the exits
Gates of horn and ivory
Smoldering at either end of this
Long affair we’ve had
In a narrow room a dark interval
Between gods as though we’d once
Even once believed in them
And every soul a plinth and the first
Letters of a name inscribed
On the mist of a dream this
Early morning gleaming
These are memories, not options,
As with the sad bread of the classics
Or, closer to home, a bird’s nest
Fallen to the street and windblown
Into pieces. Emptiness makes
So many different noises. Music
Is tucked up into every tree.
I hear a Roman bird, marking
Time. I hear a Greek, sobbing
With atoms. And there is nothing
To choose, the havoc of memory—
So aimless, so confined by
Lad & girl love—having long since
Exhausted the choices. Flaw
And flow, flaw and flow. A tall child
Soaked through by dewfall stares
Into the trees. The broken
Home was late beginning, and then
An empty nest of perfections.