This time of year often seems to prompt a look back or inward. Here for example are some lines I just discovered by Charles Wright (1):
Aprí¨s-dog days, dead end of August,
Summer a holding pattern,
heat, haze, humidity
The mantra we still chant, the bell-tick our tongues all toll.
Whatever rises becomes a light —
Firefly and a new moon,
Sun and star and star chart
unscrolled across the heavens
Like radioactive dump sites bulb-lit on a map.
Whatever goes back goes dark–
The landscape and all its accoutrements, my instinct, my hands,
My late, untouchable hands.
Summer’s crepuscular, rot and wrack,
Each August the nightscape inserts itself
another inch in my heart …
I can never get through this season without reciting at least once these favorite lines from Robinson Jeffers (2):
Come storm, kind storm.
Summer and the days of tired gold
And bitter blue are more ruinous.
The leprous grass, the sick forest,
The sea like a whore’s eyes,
And the noise of the sun,
The yellow dog barking in a blue pasture,
Here’s the last stanza of a poem by Indiana poet Todd Davis, who has recently relocated to Central Pennsylvania. He’s talking about beavers at the bottom of a pasture (3):
Towards the end of August, when we first noticed
the days growing short, Canadian air dipping south,
we came at dusk to watch them swim with the ease
of falling locust leaves, and just after sunset,
as the moon began its slow ascent, they moved
from the water, began their work, accepting
the miracle of night’s black weight — soft light
gathered to their bodies, coats dark and glistening,
gliding under a blanket of stars.
And then of course there’s Emily Dickinson (4):
As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A quietness distilled
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone …
(1) From “Meditation on Summer and Shapelessness,” Black Zodiac. Please note that line indents and stanza breaks in the original cannot be reproduced within blockquotes in this blog template.
(3) From “Night’s Black Weight,” Ripe.
(4) From # 935, R.W. Franklin (Belknap) edition.