Half My Life Blown Past

I can't help getting wistful in November.  A few years ago I was inspired by my walk across campus to write a rather bleak poem:

The Change

But when did winter fall?  Is this November?
The trees I pass each day but rarely notice—
a row of oaks, a birch, two spindly ginkos--
stand austere and black, singed candlewicks,
the flames of autumn blown out overnight.

All but one: an adolescent maple
balanced on a hill as if in motion,
half clad in trembling gold—the bottom half—
like an awkward girl undressed but for
a billowing skirt, her startled arms defenseless. 

I think abruptly of the change of life—
bland euphemism for this very moment—
as from this curb I step into awareness
of half my life blown past, cerise and scarlet
peeling off to wither at my feet.

Not long ago I was that naked girl
the tree resembles, hungry to be seen
but trembling to hide something of herself—
Now I must learn to be the one who sees,
transparent as a smoke wisp, unremarkable

to those who hurry, eyes on the horizon.
Soon the maple’s branches will wave bare
and she’ll resemble, not an ingénue 
but something rough-barked, skeletal and stark.
And who will I be?  It’s not hard to age:

just wait and watch the dark pour in, a moment
earlier each day.  It seemed the sultry
afternoons would stretch on endlessly
the pliant earth so lushly strewn with grass,

flimsy blossoms springing from each limb.    

Still, November has its joys.  "Appreciate the treasure you have," my fortune cookie told me last night.  And though I'm not a fan of preachy fortune cookies--though I much prefer the ones that promise me travel and romance and great riches just around the corner--I think last night's cookie had a point.


  1. I love this, especially the phrases "singed candlewicks" and "startled arms."


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