The heat of autumn

It was such an unusually cool, damp August in the Berkshires, I think most of us gave up on summer before Labor Day. The trees were already starting to turn. It was too chilly to have dinner on the porch. Every once in a while, the furnace would kick in — a familiar yet ominous sound, like a phone call late at night. And then last weekend summer came rushing back, swirling warm breezes, singing through the reopened screen windows: I’m here! I’m home! And we forgave and tried to forget, wanting to believe it was so. I took a long swim at a favorite pond. The water was warm as a bath, the sky mid-summer blue. It was wonderful but also disconcerting. Like the genie’s last wish. The third shake of the monkey’s paw. Or anything we know in our hearts is just too good to last.

The Heat of Autumn

Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

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9 Responses to The heat of autumn

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    I would love some real autumn here in Maine!

  2. Emily Gyllenhaal says:

    Your reflections sound like a poem! Do they experience this same holding on I wonder on the west coast? Season’s are a kind of mixed blessing providing us with real reminders of time passing. I swam in the ocean last Sunday and noticed how many people lingered on the beach as the sun set.

    • Liza says:

      Yes, I love having four seasons — “O suns and skies and clouds of June/And flowers of June together/Cannot rival for one hour/October’s bright blue weather.” Helen Hunt Jackson by way of Virginia Childs Gyllenhaal

    • Cheryl Sullivan says:

      They are kind of a mixed blessing for sure. Not sure I thought of it that way. It is hard when they pass, especially one’s favorites. You know it will be another year till it comes back….

  3. Beata Newman Scarpulla says:

    I know just what you felt and what you mean.

    You want to hold on to it, maybe even buy something that says summer, though you may only be able to wear it once this season.


  4. Max says:

    Third shake of the monkeys paw – nice. Trust my last dip will last me through the winter. Lovies.

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