Three Songs at the End of Summer
A second crop of hay lies cut and turned. Five gleaming crows search and peck between the rows. They make a low, companionable squawk, and like midwives and undertakers possess a weird authority. Crickets leap from the stubble, parting before me like the Red Sea. The garden sprawls and spoils. Across the lake the campers have learned to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t. Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!” Cloud shadows rush over drying hay, fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine. The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod brighten the margins of the woods. Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts; water, silver-still, and a vee of geese. * The cicada’s dry monotony breaks over me. The days are bright and free, bright and free. Then why did I cry today for an hour, with my whole body, the way babies cry? * A white, indifferent morning sky, and a crow, hectoring from its nest high in the hemlock, a nest as big as a laundry basket.... In my childhood I stood under a dripping oak, while autumnal fog eddied around my feet, waiting for the school bus with a dread that took my breath away. The damp dirt road gave off this same complex organic scent. I had the new books—words, numbers, and operations with numbers I did not comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled by use, in a blue canvas satchel with red leather straps. Spruce, inadequate, and alien I stood at the side of the road. It was the only life I had.
Jane Kenyon, "Three Songs at the End of Summer" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.