by the Night Writer
Fall is my favorite time of year, and this year it looks as if it will be fleeting. Snow for the second time this week this morning and we’re not to Halloween yet.
Buffy reminded me:
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.
The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper
sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.
The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes,
new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind,
and the old things go, not one lasts.
When I got off the train at the Nicollet Mall this morning the pavement was wet, the sky was gray and almost everyone had their head down. On Thursdays the mall is lined with booths from the Farmer’s Market, but today the sidewalks featured only wet clumps of leaves and hurried footsteps.
I thought of a poem I read last week entitled “Harvest”, the positive-sounding name given to a season beautiful and bittersweet. We focus on the harvest and try not to think about the reaping involved.
It’s autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They’re beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—
Inside, they’re gone. Black, moldy—
you can’t take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.
Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.
Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.
At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.
The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground’s so hard the farmers think
it isn’t worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?
And then the frost comes; there’s no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.
I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.
What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.
“Harvest” by Louise Glück from A Village Life. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.