Arts & Leisure

Poet’s corner: That plaintive call

SUSAN JEFTS

Late August

 

There is this; the evening falls sooner

in late August.

In late August there is a chill

once the sun has lowered.

The scent of the grasses is burnished,

the pleas of the cicadas, plaintive.

The cycle, always the cycle;

don’t despair, wear what manifests.

 

Decorate yourself with dried field flowers.

Fill your bowls with fruit harvest.

Celebrate the steamed corn.

Face the afternoon sun,

its warmth not yet sparse.

 

Kiss me, August.

— Ed Burke

 

Ed Burke lives in Brattleboro, Vt., where he has raised a family and practices law. He was born in Philadelphia, and has lived and worked in Boulder, Maui, San Francisco, Seattle and Alaska before settling in Vermont. Burke’s poetry has been published in several literary journals. His novel, “Christine, Released” was published by Running Wild Press in 2019. His story “Maia’s Call” was published in the Running Wild Short Story Anthology in 2019. “Allure” will be published in the Running Wild Novella Anthology in 2024.

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I think most of us, at least in the northeast, know this medley of feelings about late August. It is still summer — autumn is still a month away — but there is an undeniable shift in the air even as the landscape is still mostly green and lush, even as the daytime air remains warm. Clusters of golden rod and rag weed appear in the fields and on the roadsides. The nights become quieter, everything prepares for a shift. These are some of the sweetest and most bittersweet of days.

The poem’s evocative images of this time of year can bring back memories in a rush. What comes into your mind and heart? I think of my grandfather’s camp on Lake George where I spent summer days from childhood into adulthood, not far from where I still spend summers. Those plaintive cicada calls, as the poem describes them, always meant the midpoint of summer had passed. I am aware of all the mixed feelings that fall with the yellowing fields, the chill evening air and shifting cricket song, all amidst the promise of a vibrant new season approaching. And all of this is the same now as it was then, no matter what else is going on in the world. This much has not changed. And so the cycle, the beautiful unceasing cycle.

Susan Jefts is a poet and editor from the Adirondacks and Vermont, who runs workshops using poetry to deepen our experiences in nature, and of what we find sacred. Her website is manyriverslifeguidance.com. Her poems can be found in many print journals and online.

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