My collection, William Greenway’s Selected Poems is from FutureCycle Press. Both my tenth and eleventh collections won Ohio Poetry Book of the Year Awards. I have published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. I'm Distinguished Professor of English at Youngstown State University.
November in the South
Somewhere a thousand miles down
there's a silence between tin-roofed farms,
corn stubble, and the steel wool
of distant trees I owned on days
the gray clouds swirled and combed
like hair, lighter where the sun
yellows as it sets.
It's not cold but has been,
the clay paths spewed up
in red ice, everything still
and vertical as nails, sepia
photograph of rain. A far off pan
of lake, cleaned of brush by the cold,
is a puddle in a yard of brown grass.
I follow trails across clearings of that
knee-high hay-grass no one knows the name of,
the arms of every oak at the woods'
edge holding shadow
like an x-ray, every pine
layering its darkness. I know inside
the rusted shavings of leaves,
smell of leafmeal, broken strings
of pine needles.
Maybe one duck, circling the lake
In Defense of November
November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year.
—Louisa May Alcott
I disagree, Louisa. I like it
when wind has raked the land,
discovering the grass green again
after the parchment of August,
sultry September, garish October,
the sky now cottony-cloudy
and comfy as a faded quilt.
No more guilt
about wasting days of long light
and high heat, grown tired of
like the ardor of an old love.
The world's been tidied away
into the earth, last year's fashions
folded under another layer of leaves.
Soon the solstice will spread its white linen
for the feast when the short days
diminish and light begins to bud
into the big yellow bloom of spring,
freshets of thaw, resurrections,
the come-back, honeyed hum of bees.
See, Louisa? It’s November
we have to thank for these.
Death is the mother of beauty . . . .
She strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths . . . .
The colors this November (spinster, sad
stepsister month, hay hat trimmed
with falling leaves and clad
in holey, woolly, evening coat)
were still so perfect, although so late,
the sun was glad to cut its throat
at dusk and bleed above the hills to say,
How could I have topped today?
If death is the mother of beauty,
she's a widow, rich, rouged, and pearled,
with violet-tinted, silver curls,
leaving behind an orphan world
running naked everywhere,
precocious, sparking, red-haired, new.
She cries each evening in despair,
Child, whatever will become of you?
Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
. . . and live alone in the bee-loud glade.
—W. B. Yeats
I imagine, never having been here,
the pub The Moon Under Water, beer
a stream trickling through the town
waving watercress for tea
sandwiches of brown
bread with yellow butter, fresh
eggs, afternoons of sunny
birdsong, bees, and the honey
cobbles beneath the horses' hooves
and wagon wheels,
no cars, of course, nor tourists,
keeping it quiet as the fields
around, the only quiet place I know
where I could go.
In Heaven It Is Always Autumn -John Donne
It all seemed to happen that same year
we lived in England, every hill golden
with the turning beeches, crimson apples
in the orchard by our cottage
muted pink by the mist rising
off the river reflecting
the upside down
palette of it all.
In Italy, the vineyards
wore the yellow, plaited hair
of harvest, every barn breathing out
the warm crush and gush of grapes
like the winey kisses of a long
we couldn’t see coming
stalled for a while,
an Indian summer before the stroke.
Had it happened while we were hiking
the paths of fallen leaves, miles
from help, we’d have thought, though
not said, we hoped for any afterlife
to rival this heaven—color box
of plum, ocher, cinnamon, lemon—
and the blood-red beauty of the dead
gone on before us.
©2016 William Greenway
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