What is Borne by Autumn Light

Sun breaks the day, after a mottled sky
held the Hunter's Moon imperfect
through its third night of wane.

The welcome light of autumn returns.
And warmth. In this eleventh day of October,
the temperature will reach the seventies.

I have been out to the garden and back.
Red leaves of the serviceberry freckle
the crested walk. The yellow too, of birch.

My hands tumble with tomatoes, with romas;
theirs the red that will flow onto pasta
until the frozen sauce disappears in February.

I stack them on the narrow sill of the kitchen's
west window and look out to the sturdy trunk
of a linden I planted four seasons back.

I pulled the stakes supporting it two years ago.
That winter there were eighteen snows. Inches too of
heavy ice. The linden held and sailed into leaf.

From the clear, early light I have just left I know
with certainty that I will die in autumn.
I am more comforted than surprised by this. After all,

my father died of a heart attack in October, and
my mother's cancer won in October. In Vietnam, in
October, aircraft and friends fell like leaves.

Yesterday in the cool, late light of afternoon
I walked, as usual, through Carnegie Center.
Canada Geese lined the walks and ponds.

The rough bark of river birches caught the light
and held it fast to their russets and off-whites.
In fields, wild, white asters massed like first stars.

Turned toward home, I paused over Bear Brook to spot
the slim pike who summered there still. So straight
against the floppy water weeds, she couldn't fool me.

I knew, and continued east along Alexander Road. Geese
crossed south toward corn, their V high enough to catch
the sun gold this time of day, this time of year.

That soft glow stroked side after grey side, the wing beats
interrupted, and the gold returned with each lift.
A brief, bright art. A canvas to savor all evening.

Not a sign of geese this morning while I picked romas.
But their art remained, inseparable from this crystal light
so sharp on what must stay, so easy with what must go.

Karl Garson
South Dakota Review, Summer1996