Three Songs at the End of Summer
A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.
Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.
Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”
Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.
Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.
The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?
A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket …
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.
The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.
Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.
Can you feel it, too? The mornings are later and cooler. The rain has finally returned. Trees have that tinge of old yellow in their leaves, so different from the yellowy-new green of early Spring or the deep, rich green of full Summer. The fireflies have left and the cicadas now make a huge racket as soon as the sun begins to set. Which, of course, it does earlier now. Most nights, it’s cool enough to sleep with the windows open.
This is always a bittersweet time of year. I revel in it, but I can also sense that Winter’s Coming. At the same time that I feast on gazpacho made with local vegetables from the farmers’ market (and olive oil from Spain, infused with my own rosemary), I watch my garden begin to put itself to bed. The Queen Anne’s lace has all gone to seed. I don’t cut it down, because I want it to seed itself as naturally as possible throughout the cottage garden. And the brown stems and seedheads are a reminder. The Wheel Turns and a Witch’s Job Is to Turn the Wheel.
Maybe it’s extra bittersweet for me because I realized the other day that, in just a few days, G/Son will start kindergarten. And I’m proud and excited for him, but I’d also like to sing the Wheel a silly old song from my girlhood:
Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.
Hello lamp-post, what’s cha knowing? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me? do-it-do-do-do, feelin’ groovy.
I’ve got no deeds to do, no promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life I love you, all is groovy.
A part of me wishes that G/Son could stay a little boy much longer, happy to spend time with his old Nonna: making cookies, playing board games, discussing whether a spider bite could hurt worse than a TRex bite. I’ve watched another little boy grow up, and I think that this one is the last one that I’ll get to know so well. The Wheel of Generations turns, but it may well turn too slowly for me — and I may be too old — to really know (if I get to see at all) G/Son’s children.
And so, knowing, as I do that the Wheel will turn, I pray, as Gibran said, that my “bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.”
May it be so for you.
Picture found here.