Turning by Linda Whittenberg–a poem written at the wetlands


Asters’ seductive lavender, endless varieties of tawny grasses,
sunflowers bobbing across an open field, cottonwoods
already beginning to yellow, chamisa radiant along every road—

here it is again, that raucous parade that leads only to barren limbs
shriveled petals and cold. Here it is again, that familiar jumble
inside that comes with autumn. Until this season has wrung me out,

there’s little solace in picturing next spring’s garden or remembering
life goes in cycles. My grandfather would conclude most meals
by whipping butter and honey with his fork

and spreading the mixture on white bread. I can still see that whirl,
that spinning, his big hand stirring, the sweet smear on his plate.
I am that stir, nectarous and melancholy,

when autumn thrusts upon me scarlet vines, orange-red mallow,
graying mullein. I’d like to flee with the migrating birds,
but I am exactly where I’m meant to be,

wrestling with beauty that heralds endings. It was spring
when each of my parents died, winter for my brother.
My dearest uncle left just at harvest time. Perhaps that’s where

the sadness lies, for autumn was especially beautiful that year.
All I know is with the first turning of the colors, this mood
comes, a riddle so old you forget where you first heard it.


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