Thursday, September 04, 2014

Poetry Friday: Absolute September

I have mixed feelings about this poem. Or perhaps, more accurately, I have changing feelings about this poem.

First of all, I love it. I read it just last month for the first time and loved it immediately.

But then I thought, "No! Wait! I didn't always feel this way about autumn. That final stanza -- the mention of melancholy? I don't feel melancholy at the approach of fall. I love fall!"

So, yeah, what about that? What about the way I always celebrate the onset of autumn with an energetic little happy dance? The way I've used this Gatsby quote on the blog almost every year since I started blogging:

"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"

"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

I still love that quote (I will never stop loving Gatsby.) I still live that quote -- I continue to wilt every summer (my constitution does not appreciate heat and humidity) and am revived in the fall. Revved up in the fall.

But over the years, apparently, I have come to love summer in a way I didn't used to recognize, or fully appreciate. I couldn't see what summer really gave me. And I think I know now what it is.

In summer, Atticus is home. (And it's not just that he cooks, so stop thinking that right now.) In summer, we amble along, living a relaxed rhythm and reveling in the lack of outside pressures. It doesn't feel like an overstatement to say that we feel like we experience a tiny taste of heaven every summer -- in each other's company, in the way life feels in the summer, together. And I don't want to let that go. The older I get, the more I appreciate my summers with Atticus, and those tiny tastes of a world to come.

Is there some sort of painfully cliched dynamic at work, something about entering the autumn of my life and no longer appreciating the things about autumn that I used to celebrate because I can no longer afford to idealize the downward slope that is inherent in the season?

Maybe. Or maybe I just really, really love my summers with Atticus.

Absolute September
by Mary Jo Salter

How hard it is to take September
straight—not as a harbinger
of something harder.

Merely like suds in the air, cool scent
scrubbed clean of meaning—or innocent
of the cold thing coldly meant.

(Read the whole beautiful, glorious poem here, at The Writer's Almanac.)


The Poetry Friday round up is at Author Amok


Atticus said...

Of course, the obligatory Keats on Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease, 10
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 25
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Atticus said...

P.S. When reading/teaching this poem by Keats, I never fail to hear these final lines from Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning":

At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

The influence is obvious.

Karen Edmisten said...

Why can't summer last all year? :)

Tabatha said...

You two are so sweet!
"Thou hast thy music too,--" very nice.

Author Amok said...

Wow -- that second stanza has such vivid images. Beautiful. Thanks to Atticus for the bonus poem!

Bridget Magee said...

Absolute September and Keats - "changing feelings" about the seasons and life. Lovely post to reflect on today, Karen. Thank you. = )

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

Beautiful sentiments shared here - in the post itself and the comments. Flutter, fly, love.

Mary Lee said...

I agree entirely. I can't wait to be revived and revved up by cooler, crispier weather. And simultaneously, I mourn the end of summer's ease as I try to adjust to the rigid schedule of fall and back to school.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, all! So glad you guys liked the poem (s) as much as I did. :)