The sweetest days.

I love autumn: the scents, the colors, the sensation
of Earth rolling out her red carpet,
not in welcome anticipation of her death in winter,
but rather, in a final mad fling, to spend her riches
in a jumble before her days are done
and the bitter frost comes again to chase
summer’s extravagance back under the soil.

Fall’s fruits are not the lush, wanton beauties of summer,
but deeper, sweeter, richer, firmer,
because the kiss of frost is at her heels, making her serious
after summer’s loose gaiety.

Growth slows,
but it is stronger growth for the slowness.

Roots deepen. Flowers fade.

Colors are deep, passionate, somber, velvety
like port wine and dark chocolate.
Fire dances on the hillsides, and dark blood
glistens at the ends of curling thorny vines.

The atmosphere bears conflicting senses of abandonment and restraint,
like a girl saying farewell to her lover who is leaving for the war.
There should be no holding back of her affections,
because for all she knows, this could be the last time she sees him.
And yet
to abandon herself completely to the moment and leave nothing unshared
would be to admit her fear that he will not return.
To admit this, in her mind, would be to prophesy it; so,
while she gives her heart near-wholly to him
in one last dance, one last heartfelt kiss, one last tearful embrace,
so also she quietly stores up for his return,
not yielding all her gifts at once,
in defiance of her despair of a tomorrow
when they will have their leisure
to enjoy each other at length.
A mad urgency
and a wish to make time move more slowly
trip up her tongue with their struggle.
Her song is not the lark of springtime,
nor is it the wild bacchanal of summer,
nor the keening wails and transcendent silences of winter;
it is the wind over the heathers, at once a wistful smile
and a voiceless lament.
Her tears are hot and alive, but they turn
to ice on her wind-chapped cheeks.
Part of her will lie buried until his return, and when that part of her
is unearthed, it will have changed,
despite both their wish
to preserve it just as they remember it at this moment.

Autumn’s lamp against the darkness is her hope
that sun will warm the land again, and so she labors
over her seeds, carefully padding them about
with the fleshy and substantial profits of summer,
even as she shares her abundance with the hungry.
She lays her hopes aside carefully,
nourished, protected, safe. But as they lay there
beneath the riotous leaves,
the moldering confetti of summer’s going-away party,
those seeds will change
as much as they remain the same.

The new year is born of these hopes;
it is autumn’s prudent forbearance (so often unsung)
that secures our futures, just as much
as winter’s introverted restfulness, spring’s tender bravery,
and summer’s joyous exertions.

Each autumn day, still warm with memory of joys recently past,
is followed by a night littered with mirror shards—
beautiful, delicate, and untouchable—
oracular fragments reflecting what is to come.

Over all, the winds of change blow as they will
through the hours, with no regard
for sun or moon, birth or death. These days
before the last days of the year
are the sweetest to me in all the world.