Waiting for September

Photo: Yoshikazu Takada (CC BY 2.0)

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

— WS. Merwin, from The Lice (1967)

September less septembery by the year. Unseasonably warm the new normal. The leaves planning, apparently, on staying green until far into October. The undiminished fecundity of nature seems to perversely be multiplying the thoughts of mortality that always creep in at the start of autumn. I’m worried about more extensive, deeper kinds of extinction than my own, now.

I keep thinking of that essay by Zadie Smith I blogged about this spring. Singing an elegy for the stolen seasons seems appropriate, as the world leaders gather in New York to agree to keep doing nothing, fast. I listen to songs written a few years before I was born or in my childhood and notice that lyrics about September always include references to naked branches and a feeling of leaves falling, falling, falling. I look out the window now, and the colours have barely turned. A yellowing green field, as far as the eye can see.

Apologies for the absence, everyone. I have been occupied with real life (children! work! housing! mortgages!). I hope to recommence posting here about now.

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5 comments
  1. One of my favorite poems by my all-time favorite poet. It fits this season perfectly. I’ll have to look into the Smith essay. Thanks for sharing!

    • Release said:

      I love him too! And that collection is spectacular. In my edition of his Selected Poems, three of my favourite poems are grouped really closely together. “The Anniversary of My Death”, “The Asians Dying” and “For A Coming Extinction”, all of which, for various differing reasons, have been on my mind lately.

      • All time favorite line is from “Youth” and it is: from what we cannot hold the stars are made.

      • Release said:

        I don’t think I’ve read that before, but I read it now. You’re right, a strong and evocative line. He has an amazing sense for simple words and rhythm creating something. The inversion of the line is what makes it sing, right? Normally, you would say “the stars are made from what we cannot hold”, but inverting the order of the words changes the sense of them. You lose the grip on “hold” in the middle of the sentence, but end on “stars” and “made”, a little uplift that makes the form of the sentence harmonise with the content of the words in a beautiful way.

        (And now I stop to notice that I just took a paragraph to describe one small aspect of something that Merwin did in one sentence.)

  2. Teresa Mayville said:

    “Like the beam of a light less star.” This is what we see when we look for ourselves where we are not.

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