Late October light slants, stingy at 6 p.m.
I will fall back in early November
For an extra hour of shadow time,
Of cool sleep, a false gain against the loss
Of afternoon gold and blinks into azure bliss
Where contrails etch high-flown ice-crystal beauty.
You showed me fragments, quickening a wakefulness
Within my darkened room—a pull on the blinds,
And a rainbow shot through an antique prism,
And I yearned for the tiny magnificence
Of southern autumn flecking your eyes,
The perfect iris ambiguity
Oh, these are the days of wine-soaked glory—
When fall flames the Japanese maples
Leaving in chlorophyll-starved splendor
And sets crimson fire to full-sun burning bushes;
Scraggles of yearend roses scrape skyward
Or ground-sink in tattered bouquets.
Near death is full, palpitating—
Drunk on this bittersweet October afternoon,
A bee bumbles and greedily clutches
A fistful of honey-yellow stamens
Rippling my late-summer Iowa memory
Of wheat dipping, bowing, rolling west;
I craved the pull of that wind-mellowed phrase,
But F-sharp minor cross-wired my brain violet;
My hands are witless things, deaf to sounding color,
Yet you heard, somehow heard, rhythms halting,
And grace notes chirping, and my wistful banging
At a far-flung purplish fantaisie;
Your right hand took the middle voice; your left, the bass,
Tempering my two-hand flails at trills and dots,
And I down-stepped a semitone to F sharp;
Our four-hand blue noted harmonic shifts and modulated—
A carefulness, like precision-measured gin
From a sapphire bottle, kissed with vermouth
And two drops of orange bitters—I paused
For the long-distance click of frosted glasses
And mourned the phrase I would never grasp:
Six minutes of perfect F-sharp minor.
And so, we play on, October moistening our lips,
Faithful in our fashion to burnished friendship,
Like copper-edged magnolia leaves gleaming hazel
While roses bleed the ground before butchering frost.
Nature has a way of turning parlor tricks:
The heart line forks in the palm of my right hand,
Oh, mon semblable, oh, mon frère.