November

Who said November’s face was grim? 
    Who said her voice was harsh and sad?
I heard her sing in wood paths dim,
   I met her on the shore, so glad,
So smiling, I could kiss her feet!
There never was a month so sweet.

October’s splendid robes, that hid 
   The beauty of the white-limbed trees, 
Have dropped in tatters; yet amid 
   Those perfect forms the gazer sees
A proud wood-monarch here and there
Garments of wine-dipped crimson wear. 

In precious flakes the autumnal gold
    Is clinging to the forest’s fringe: 
Yon bare twig to the sun will hold 
   Each separate leaf, to show the tinge 
Of glorious rose-light reddening through 
Its jewels, beautiful as few. 

Where short-lived wild-flowers bloomed and died
   The slanting sunbeams fall across 
Vine-broideries, woven from side to side 
   Above mosaics of tinted moss.
So does the Eternal Artist’s skill
Hide beauty under beauty still. 

And, if no note of bee or bird
   Through the rapt stillness of the woods
Or the sea’s murmurous trance be heard,
    A Presence in these solitudes 
Upon the spirit seems to press
The dew of God’s dear silences.

And if, out of some inner heaven, 
    With soft relenting comes a day
Whereto the heart of June is given, —
   All subtle scents and spicery
Through forest crypts and arches steal, 
With power unnumbered hurts to heal. 

Through yonder rended veil of green, 
   That used to shut the sky from me, 
New glimpses of vast blue are seen; 
    I never guessed that so much sea
Bordered my little plot of ground,
And held me clasped so close around. 
  
This is the month of sunrise skies 
      Intense with molten mist and flame; 
Out of the purple deeps arrive 
      Colors no painter yet could name:
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower 
Were pale against this gorgeous hour. 

Still lovelier when athwart the east
      The level beam of sunset falls:
The tints of wild-flowers long deceased 
       Glow then upon the horizon walls; 
Shades of the rose and violet
Close to their dear world lingering yet. 

What idleness, to moan and fret 
       For any season fair, gone by! 
Life’s secret is not guessed at yet;
       Veil under veil its wonders lie. 
Through grief and loss made glorious 
The soul of past joy lives in us. 

More welcome than voluptous gales 
       This keen, crisp air, as conscience clear: 
November breathes no flattering tales;— 
       The plain truth-teller of the year, 
Who wins her heart, and he alone, 
Knows she has sweetness all her own.

Related Poems

December Moon

December Moon


Oak moon, reed moon—

our friend called;
she was telling the pain
what to think.

I said Look. If you
relax you'll get better.

Better? who wants better,
said a moonbeam
under the wire,

the soul is light's
hypotenuse; the lily's
logic is frozen fire

December Moon


Suppose you are the secret
of the shore—a strong wave
lying on its side—

you'd come to earth again

(as if joy's understudy
would appear) & you
could live one more bold

day without meaning to,
afresh, on winter's piney floor;

you say, I've been
to the door & wept;
it says, what door

January

Dusk and snow this hour 
in argument have settled 
nothing. Light persists, 
and darkness. If a star 
shines now, that shine is 
swallowed and given back 
doubled, grounded bright. 
The timid angels flailed 
by passing children lift 
in a whitening wind 
toward night. What plays 
beyond the window plays 
as water might, all parts 
making cold digress. 
Beneath iced bush and eave, 
the small banked fires of birds 
at rest lend absences 
to seeming absence. Truth 
is, nothing at all is missing. 
Wind hisses and one shadow 
sways where a window's lampglow 
has added something. The rest 
is dark and light together tolled 
against the boundary-riven 
houses. Against our lives, 
the stunning wholeness of the world.

February

A mist appalls the windshield.
So I still see trees as moral lessons,
as I pass under them, shadowy and astute.

The glazed aspen branches hover.
Ice heats up and cracks, road tar steams
like some animal where the blush

of cheek is chilled by annunciation.
I cannot say her face was trauma driven.
I'm still saturated with her, taking in

her etched-in countenance, otherworldly,
enveloping, frightening, the face you can't see,
pressed against it. So how can you imagine

what it feels like? Their gravity suffices,
the sealed and straining torsos
of aspens, an affront to our high-pitched moans,

feverish with disarray. Our expressions
have too much God in them, too much cloud, too much
blood on nail, too much arrow, too much quiver.