In the Season of Early Dark

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Claude Monet. Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île, 1886. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The wind sassy and half mad,
The clouds knocked up with rain—
Another feral afternoon in the Midwest,
Fall, and the trees like Salome, ready
To ask, when the last leaf drops,
For my unresisting head.

I’m going to spring all the little traps
Set by silence
And call it mercy. I’m going to let loose
Every thought caught by its hind legs
And screaming for release.
Out of the jaws and sharp teeth,
The tongue comes, loving
The taste of its own blood, gush of words
Hurt into eloquence.

Gray day. Raincoat weather.
Raw wound that would weep over me,
Nasty stuff from so deep inside
It could make the scarecrows gag
Among the stooks and stubble.
Whatever I did to deserve this,
I deserve it.

All the numbers add up—
Mortgages, body count, Lincoln pennies
In a plaster pig my grandfather gave me.
And the years, too, though no one
Knows how many, not the saints,
Not the drugged and corrupt. I have these
Fingers to figure with. They tell me
The end is always at hand.

Misbegotten month
Rushing from bluster to bare bark.
The geese get out of town.
Even the seedy weeds die back,
Brittle slippage of the unloved.
I stack firewood against the stone wall
And plant the last tulips, bonemeal
In their shallow holes. Lights rise
From the windows and fall
On the dark grass, so black
My footprints sink down to the roots.

Elton Glaser, a native of New Orleans, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Akron. He has published six full-length books of poetry, among them Pelican Tracks (Southern Illinois, 2003) and Here and Hereafter (Arkansas, 2005), winner of the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.

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