To Autumn

On the curt eve of November to make out of patience a new name.
Shale-light, long scythes of it,
slicing through the turbid shadow-impressions of failed snow,
pauses at certain angles and, in
ceasing to carve, deepens the engravings
of wind, hoof-prints, the murky aquatint
after-bristle of ferns iced-over and
swept into new grooves...
As if justice cannot be
served to principle if the principle alone does not melt
under the surveillance of
force—skittish, ever-
truant, this autumn wind ever-
whetting itself, and
this light transmogrifying itself—
a passing bird like a toss of chopped tobacco.
And then, the light reconnoitering—
bossed lardy handfuls of it
fallen, then cobbled in groups of two or three,
among the yew-cones and in the paunchy creases
where the sidewalk abandons plot, sagging a little.
And that single gob of it—horse-hair grey, crackling like
the fat toe of a god. After the curt melt of
this evening to wake up in
a tree, into a grain
in the growth in the upper left finger of the smallest branch
in the very reddest tree. To sense
handlessness, then the catch-of-flint roil of
static—a canopy of hands. To feel my hands
tighten—lean—then loosen—and then
to feel slender
in an unloosened light. How can one bate
the tongue then, how can one judge what to savor and
what to let turn frail and
incendiary? And the light? How can one serve
justice to a principle
if body is one and the lolling limber light another
that lacquers it?
The dead have their lightless islands
and we, each new second,
use that second to shuck off a second
self. All the while the small molded
buhl leaves scatter
mildly, settling in our hair like cut-out lacunas from
some fluted elemental music, in
flaking November-light.
I would not want, I think, in this
porcelain-light, to suffer the suddenness of
another’s skin—to sense
a shade as treacle, grey, curried, or white as
leaves. There are still
the unraveling sprigs of
my topcoat to contend with. And then
the theater tonight.