This was a totally new experience: a poem written over a painting that linked visual to verbal. I tried several versions of the words and have come up with a better one… but, once the words are on the canvas, it’s so hard to change them. The spoken word, once loosed, can never be recalled.
Our New Brunswick leaves have gone already. We are looking at ships’ masts, sails unfurled, in an anchored harbor. Further south, Thanksgiving is here. My distant neighbors and friends are contemplating turkeys and family gatherings and all that is good about harvest festivals and the end of the productive year, the agriculturally productive year, that is. Below them, in Mexico, the land of four continuous harvests, growth continues.
The cycle of the seasons rolls on and on. In the British Isles Woodhenge has turned into Stonehenge. Four thousand five hundred years of history measured in stone circles, seasonal star and sun points, times for sowing and harvesting. Absolutely bewilderingly marvelous. More than 5,500 standing stone calendars can be found in those islands.
And here, in my painting, leaves, letters, words deliver a message of intertextuality. Change is upon us. We live with it, focus on it, describe it in words. Each letter, each word, is a leaf on the tree, falling or soon to fall.
Catch them if you can.
Catch them while you can.
Autumn Leaves. Don’t grieve. Close the door when she is gone.
Who has seen the early spring wind drifting its thought-clouds across the grass, moving shadows over the lawn’s green, thrusting spikes.
Sometimes, I speak my thoughts aloud, hoping that nobody can hear or see them as they leave migratory footsteps across my mind.
Autumn now and I watch the wind twist leaves from the tree. Yellow and red, they flee from me. I do not understand their reluctance to stay, their urge to tear away and leave. The birds must leave for they cannot bear the cold, cannot stay without food.
At night, when I close the garage door, I sing hymns to the trees and to him who always hears. Each note forms like a pea in the pod of my throat and launches itself skywards, migrating upwards, in a feathered flock that celebrates in songs.
Words, migrant birds, their flight unplanned, will not stay still, will neither perch, nor gather, nor feed from the outstretched hand.
Late fall with falling leaves, trees stripped wind-blown bare, and winter drawing close.
The huntsman, the archer, the Cerne Abbas Giant, Hercules and his club walking high in the sky, a dog forever at their heels, ever faithful, ever true. Star-jewels line his belt, where the star-sword swings, the bow, and all his magnificence displayed before us. Bow down before him and rejoice.
The year is turning, or has turned and we are turning with it. Back to our pasts, on to our futures, or else we stand here, gazing skywards, our feet mired in the present, minds locked, nowhere to go.
“I left her by the gate to the Beaver Pond at 2:38. It takes her twenty minutes to walk around the circuit. I always check my watch. Then I know when I can expect her back. In exactly eight minutes, she comes out of the woods and I can see her at the end of the boardwalk. I park the car in a spot from which I can watch her and wave to her. Today, I didn’t see her come out of the woods. It’s the radiation for prostate cancer … it’s left my bowels weak. I had to go to the bathroom … so I turned the car engine on … it was 2:44 … about two minutes before she was due to appear on the boardwalk … yesterday, a Great Blue Heron stood fishing in the pond … he flew when he saw her … a great crack of the wings … but today, the heron wasn’t there … just ducks … they flapped their wings, stood on the water, you know, the way they do, and scattered from the spot where she should have appeared … she walks very quietly, tip-toe, you know … she likes watching the heron and the ducks … she doesn’t like to frighten them … I don’t know what to think … I had to go … it was urgent … so I turned the car around and drove to the nearest bathroom … about one hundred yards away … I was in there … I don’t know … about five minutes … I didn’t check my watch … it’s dark in there … no electricity …besides, between hobbling on my sticks, praying to God to help me to hold on, opening and closing the door, struggling to get my pants down without soiling them …and then I drove back to the picnic tables … and waited … and waited …and she never appeared. I haven’t seen her since … she’s gone missing … I fear the worst … “
On the other end of the phone, a long silence, some heavy breathing, then:
“We’ll file a missing person’s report.”
“You will find her, won’t you? I love her, you know. I must find her. I want to know what’s happened … ” the old man wiped the corner of his right eye with the knuckle of the index finger of his left hand. He coughed and cleared his throat.
“Twenty years younger than you, you said?”
“Yes,” the old man nodded.
“Well, sir: we’ve already started our investigation. We’ll do our best to find her. We’ll contact you as soon as anything turns up.”
The police officer put down the phone and the circuit clicked out.
“What the hell you gonna do?”
“Not me … us.”
“Okay … us then … well … what the hell we gonna do?”
“You tell me. We got her on video. She walked out the other exit, by the park HQ, straight into the arms of the Deputy Police Commissioner. She’s twenty years younger than her husband and her husband’s got the sort of cancer that’s killed his sex life. Cancer? And the Deputy Commissioner’s the one who’s waiting for her? What the hell do you think we’re gonna do?”
Comment The Beaver Pond at Mactaquac is a beautiful place to be, all year round. We love it in summer and fall and Anne Stillwell-Leblanc (< click on link for website) has captured the stillness and silence of the place in the above engraving. As I have become less mobile, so I have sent Clare cantering around the pond to enjoy the beauty we used to enjoy together. Meanwhile, I sit in the car and watch for Clare’s regular appearances through the trees and on the footbridge. As I sit, I write. Sometimes it is journal style, sometimes poetry, and occasionally a short story, like this one.
Just one leaf dropping from the tree and the fall a call of nature and no freak chance of fate. What throw of the dice eliminates Lady Luck? None at all, or so the poet says, lying there, indisposed, his ribs cracked hard against the wooden boards of the porch and his right foot caught in such a way that the hip slips slightly from its socket and try as he may he cannot stand but lies there in the chill evening wind, a lone leaf, getting on in age, plucked from his tree and cast to the ground.
Comment: And don’t forget the family of crows, sitting in the tree, giving me the eye. watching every movement. I half expected them to flap down on to the balcony, and take a closer look, but when I started to move, it was game over, Rover, and they all cawed and flew away.
Red leaves multiply on maple trees. Bright berries staining a mountain ash.
One flower survives on the hollyhock, its blaze of glorious blooms lost, faded in a silence of dried seeds, absent bees.
Hummingbirds are now long gone. Geese gather in great gaggles feasting on grass before taking flight and soaring south.
I want to ask questions about their journey but they mouth denial and waddle away to paddle on grey waves when I approach.
Comment: With a temperature yesterday of 21 C (that’s plus 21 C) rafts of geese are still around. These photos are from earlier in the fall. I love the way several stand erect, looking at and for possible intruders, while others feed. Shared responsibilities. I guess we humans could learn a great deal from the geese, if only ‘we were not full of care / and had some time to stop, and stare’ (W. H. Davies, one of my favorite Welsh poets, the verses changed slightly and adapted to Mactaquac). Roedd hi’n y tywydd heulog a cynnes yfory / the weather was sunny and warm yesterday. What a joy to be able to write that in Welsh after so many years without the language.
… and the wind a presence, sudden, rustling dusty reeds and leaves, the pond no longer a mirror, its troubled surface twinkling, sparking fall sunshine, fragmenting it into shiny patches.
It’s warm in the car, windows raised and the fall heat trapped in glass. Outside, walkers walk hooded now, gloved, heads battened down beneath woollen thatches.
A wet dog emerges from the pond, shakes its rainbow spray soon to be a tinkle of trembling sparks when the mercury sinks and cold weather closes the pond to all but skaters. Then fall frost will turn noses blue and winter will start to bite.