It’s a motley lot.  A few still stand

at attention like sentries at the ends

of their driveways, but more lean

askance as if they’d just received a blow

to the head, and in fact they’ve received

many, all winter, from jets of wet snow

shooting off the curved, tapered blade

of the plow.  Some look wobbly, cocked

at oddball angles or slumping forlornly

on precariously listing posts.  One box

bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door

lolling sideways, unhinged.  Others are dented,

battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,

crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.

A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow

that knocked them from their perches.

Another is wedged in the crook of a tree

like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.

I almost feel sorry for them, worn out

by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing

what hit them, trying to hold themselves

together, as they wait for news from spring.


                                        ~ Jeffrey Harrison


Scottius 11


Tomorrow I will start to be happy.

The morning will light up like a celebratory cigar.

Sunbeams sprawling on the lawns will set

dew sparkling like a cut-glass tumbler of champagne.

Today will end the worst phase of my life.


I will put my shapeless days behind me,

fencing off the past, as a golden rind

of sand parts slipshod sea from solid land.

It is tomorrow I want to look back on, not today.

Tomorrow I start to be happy; today is almost yesterday.


~ From “Tomorrow” by Dennis O’Driscoll


Robert Koehler, 1895

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,

     Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

     She walks the sodden pasture lane.


Her pleasure will not let me stay.

     She talks and I am fain to list:

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

     Is silver now with clinging mist.


The desolate, deserted trees,

     The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

     And vexes me for reason why.


Not yesterday I learned to know

     The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

     And they are better for her praise.


~ Robert Frost


“Autumn” by Carl Fredrik Hill, 1877

A child looking at ruins grows younger

but cold

and wants to wake to a new name

I have been younger in October

than in all the months of spring

walnut and may leaves the color

of shoulders at the end of summer

a month that has been to the mountain

and become light there

the long grass lies pointing uphill

even in death for a reason

that none of us knows

and the wren laughs in the early shade now

come again shining glance in your good time

naked air late morning

my love is for lightness

of touch foot feather

the day is yet one more yellow leaf

and without turning I kiss the light

by an old well on the last of the month

gathering wild rose hips

in the sun.


                         ~ W. S. Merwin


“October Gold” by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1889

What do you demand of your captain?  Are you then so easily turned from your design?  Did you not call this a glorious expedition?  And wherefore was it glorious?  Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror; because, at every new incident, your fortitude was to be called forth, and your courage exhibited; because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome. […] Be steady to your purposes, and firm as a rock.  This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable, and cannot withstand you, if you say that it shall not. 

~ From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, born on this day in 1797


“Scene in the Arctic” by William Bradford, circa 1880

What is beautiful seems so only in relation to a specific

Life, experienced or not, channeled into some form

Steeped in the nostalgia of a collective past.

The light sinks today with an enthusiasm

I have known elsewhere, and known why

It seemed meaningful, that others felt this way

Years ago.  I go on consulting

This mirror that is no longer mine

For as much brisk vacancy as is to be

My portion this time.  And the vase is always full

Because there is only just so much room

And it accommodates everything.  The sample

One sees is not to be taken as

Merely that, but as everything as it

May be imagined outside time—not as a gesture

But as all, in the refined, assimilable state.

But what is this universe the porch of

As it veers in and out, back and forth,

Refusing to surround us and still the only

Thing we can see?  Love once

Tipped the scales but now is shadowed, invisible,

Though mysteriously present, around somewhere.


~ John Ashbery, born on this day in 1927


Frederick Carl Frieseke, 1911

Our simple childhood, sits upon a throne

That hath more power than all the elements.

I guess not what this tells of Being past,

Nor what it augurs of the life to come;

But so it is, and, in that dubious hour,

That twilight when we first begin to see

This dawning earth, to recognise, expect,

And in the long probation that ensues,

The time of trial, ere we learn to live

In reconcilement with our stinted powers.


~ From The Prelude by William Wordsworth (Book V, 508-17)


Paul Hoecker-Vally, 1888

The Going

Why did you give no hint that night

That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,

And calmly, as if indifferent quite,

You would close your term here, up and be gone

     Where I could not follow

     With wing of swallow

To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!


     Never to bid good-bye

     Or lip me the softest call,

Or utter a wish for a word, while I

Saw morning harden upon the wall,

     Unmoved, unknowing

     That your great going

Had place that moment, and altered all.


Why do you make me leave the house

And think for a breath it is you I see

At the end of the alley of bending boughs

Where so often at dusk you used to be;

     Till in darkening dankness

     The yawning blankness

Of the perspective sickens me!




Why, then, latterly did we not speak,

Did we not think of those days long dead,

And ere your vanishing strive to seek

That time’s renewal?  We might have said,

     “In this bright spring weather

     We’ll visit together

Those places that once we visited.”


     Well, well!  All’s past amend,

     Unchangeable.  It must go.


                       ~ From “The Going” by Thomas Hardy


May you wander the White Cliffs of Dover until your heart is at last content, dearest Donella…


The steadfastness of generations of nobility

shows in the curving lines that form the eyebrows.

And the blue eyes still show traces of childhood fears

and of humility here and there, not of a servant’s,

yet of one who serves obediently, and of a woman.

The mouth formed as a mouth, large and accurate,

not given to long phrases, but to express

persuasively what is right.  The forehead without guile

and favoring the shadows of quiet downward gazing.


This, as a coherent whole, only casually observed;

never as yet tried in suffering or succeeding,

held together for an enduring fulfillment,

yet so as if for times to come, out of these scattered things,

something serious and lasting were being planned.


~ Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Albert Ernest Flemming


“Contemplation” by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, 1845-1902

Virtue could see to do what Virtue would

By her own radiant light, though sun and moon

Were in the flat sea sunk.  And Wisdom’s self

Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,

Where with her best nurse Contemplation

She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings

That in the various bustle of resort

Were all to-ruffled, and sometimes impaired.


~ From A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634 (Comus) by John Milton


“Reading Woman” by Ivan Kramskoi, circa 1866
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