A Poem for Autumn
We leisurely walked hand in hand through the golden light, enjoying the spectacular yellows and coppers and crimsons.
“It’s just like Mary Oliver said!”
“Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
I loved quoting my favorite autumn poem.
You stopped and pulled me into your arms. “She wasn’t just talking about autumn,” you said gently. “Remember the fires and the black river of loss.“
“Whose other side is salvation,” I continued.
“Whose meaning none of us will ever know,” you concluded.
“She’s talking about autumn,” I insisted.
“My dearest love, she’s talking about death.” I could see you wanted to elaborate, but I put my finger on your lips to silence you.
We made our way home to a light supper and a warm embrace. You were tired and went on up to bed; I researched the poem on the Internet. Most of the readers agreed with me – the first lines were about the glories of autumn. Not only trees as pillars of light, but cattails bursting over the “blue shoulders of the ponds”. Such colors, such energy, such a celebration of life! I finally shut off the computer, resolving to share all this joyfulness with you the next morning.
But there was no next morning for us. You died peacefully in your sleep that night.
Now, on another autumn afternoon I walk alone, pondering golden trees and bursting cattails and the black river of loss. I stop at the very place where you took me in your arms as if to say goodbye. I fling your ashes over the leaf-strewn pathway, and the last lines of the poem pour over me in all their sorrowful wisdom:
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”
I listen to the silence, then take the long way home.