In the year 1052 Ou-Yang in his study heard a pattering and rustling, that broke into a great churning and crashing, like the noise of waves, or of soldiers going to battle. Sent out to see what it was, his boy returned declaring he had seen no men and that the noise must be in the trees.
Alas, Ou-Yang said, the sound is that of Autumn, arriving with her desolate thoughts, bringing emptiness and silence to the rivers and hills, stripping the trees of their leaves, for Autumn is an executioner and her hour is darkness.
She sweeps the grasses and their color changes:
She meets the trees and their boughs are stripped.
True, Spring is growth, Autumn, fruit.
That is Heaven’s plan, that when things gow old they are stricken by grief ….when their time comes plants and trees are blown down.
But man moves and lives and is of creatures most divine. …when he thinks of things that his strength cannot achieve or grieves at things his mind cannot understand, is it strange that cheeks grow withered…. and ebony black hair turns spangled as a starry sky?
Who, said the poet, but man himself is the slayer of his youth?
(Adapted from Translations from the Chinese, Arthur Waley, a book that has accompanied me since I was in my teens)
October’s right around the corner.
It had arrived
belatedly and on the sly.
Didn’t even knock.
Just burst through the door.
A welcome guest at sunrise
whom no one wants at two.
Stockings and sweaters
disappear into drawers.
Grass is no longer cut at noon.
Privacy becomes the word as
doors and windows keep out from in.
Feet rejoice in being bare,
needs reduced to a minimum.
But then overnight
that other guest arrives,
heralded by rain and fog
with offerings of cyclamine to soften her demands,
as fields grow green again
and every tiny seed makes its last stand
before the cold sets in.
In a game
of push and pull, she elbows out summer,
giving way tomorrow.
And once again
out come stockings,
out come feather comforters
and sweaters, jackets, undershirts.
Doors and windows are shut tight,
hot morning showers feel good upon the skin.
Flames flicker in the fireplace.
Cats snuggle up on laps, stay in at night.
Footsteps echo through the woods
as chestnuts drop from trees.
The winds of fall come rushing through the leaves,
sending them to earth in a dance of death.