Welcome to the first installation of APIARY’s new monthly column, Poetry Jawns with Alina, curated by our resident poetry expert, Alina Pleskova! Alina is an editor at an academic publisher by day, always wins the contest for who’s wearing the highest heels at APIARY staff meetings, and has made it her mission to deliver to you, dear readers, exactly the poetry your soul has been yearning for… but were too lazy/tired/busy to search for yourself. Today she offers you the perfect accompaniments to your first pumpkin flavored beverage of the season: Brautigan, Sexton, and Simic, of course. Enjoy!
Say what you will about the validity of surly East Coaster typecasting around these parts, but this much seems true enough: certain shifts in temperature and changes in the light have the ability to soften us, if only for a few weeks. Lately, I’ve been taking lots of aimless cross-city walks– compulsory in this weather, if you haven’t heard– and let me tell you what: people are smiling out here. They’re sitting on benches and making eye contact instead of fiddling on phones! They’re belly down in the grass and pen-gnawing with crosswords! They’re playing chess and washing down their myriad pumpkin-flavored foods with pumpkin-flavored beverages. Some of them are wearing scarves!
Even the word ‘autumnal’ is gorgeous (for extra-gorgeous, try ‘autumnal equinox’.) If I were a synesthete, I bet autumnal would look like burgundy and taste like very warm caramel. I’m pretty sure that’s not how synesthesia works, but I’m an armchair neuroscientist at best. And we’re here to talk about poetry, aren’t we? Right, so… If you were to enter keywords like ‘autumn + poetry’ into your search engine of choice (to clarify: only the laziest poetry column-writers among us would ever conceive of doing such a thing, and I only did it just now while writing this sentence so I could prove a point), you’d likely run into the usual suspects from Norton’s Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period. Guys like Keats, Hopkins, Byron. Maybe Rilke, maybe Baudelaire if we’re going offshore. All well and good, but– purely for the sake of argument– let’s pretend that poetry kept going after the 19th century!
What follows are my [Google-eschewing] picks. Soon as the air cools and sidewalks start to crunch, these six poems come to mind. See, autumn’s the season of drawing closer, of clean slates and fresh starts, of skin prickling and spine chills and– as you can’t help but notice– pumpkins at every turn.
Yours in flannel pajamas and woodsmoke hair,
ELEGY 1024 | Merrill Gilfillan
The first off-guard days of September,
tether cut, float like gulls
over jetsam. Cicada with jays—
Whispersong of the radiant shanghaied.
I want to see you ten more times.
Halloween In Denver | Richard Brautigan
She didn’t think that she would get any trick or treaters, so she didn’t buy anything for them. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see what can happen with that. It might be interesting.
We’ll start off with me reacting to her diagnosis of the situation by saying, “Hell, get something for the kids. After all, you’re living on Telegraph Hill and there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood and some of them are certain to stop here.”
I said it in such a way that she went down to the store and came back a few minutes later with a carton of gum. The gum was in little boxes called Chiclets and there were a lot of them in the carton.
“Satisfied?” she said.
She’s an Aires.
“Yes,” I said.
I’m an Aquarius.
We also had two pumpkins: both Scorpios.
So I sat there at the kitchen table and carved a pumpkin. It was the first pumpkin that I had carved in many years. It was kind of fun. My pumpkin had one round eye and one triangular eye and a not-very-bright witchy smile.
She cooked a wonderful dinner of sweet red cabbage and sausages and had some apples baking in the oven.
Then she carved her pumpkin while dinner was cooking beautifully away. Her pumpkin looked very modernistic when she was through. It looked more like an appliance than a jack-o’-lantern.
All the time that we were carving pumpkins the door bell did not ring once. It was completely empty of trick or treaters, but I did not panic, though there were an awful lot of Chiclets waiting anxiously in a large bowl.
We had dinner at 7:30 and it was so good. Then the meal was eaten and there were still no trick or treaters and it was after eight and things were starting to look bad. I was getting nervous.
I began to think that it was every day except Halloween.
She of course looked beatifically down upon the scene with an aura of Buddhistic innocence and carefully did not mention the fact that no trick or treaters had darkened the door.
That did not make things any better.
At nine o’clock we went in and lay down upon her bed and we were talking about this and that and I was in a kind of outrage because we had been forsaken by all trick or treaters, and I said something like, “Where are those little bastards?”
I had moved the bowl of Chiclets into the bedroom, so I could get to the trick or treaters faster when the door bell rang. The bowl sat there despondently on a table beside the bed. It was a very lonely sight.
At 9:30 we started fucking.
About fifty-four seconds later we heard a band of kids come running up the stairs accompanied by a cyclone of Halloween shrieking and mad door bell ringing.
I looked down at her and she looked up at me and our eyes met in laughter, but it wasn’t too loud because suddenly we weren’t at home.
We were in Denver, holding hands at a street corner, waiting for the light to change.
The Pumpkin Tide | Richard Brautigan
I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea.
Her Kind | Anne Sexton
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
Amor Vincit Omnia | John Burnside
Find me when summer ends and the lamps
I have practiced being the one
to whom you return,
if not the betrothed, then at least
the autumnal familiar,
the almost unveiled.
Songlike and lost in the mist, I have made you a bed
of fingerprints and outlook and those
footsteps that go in the dark
through a litmus of snow
to seek benediction.
Call it a house of cards,
or a hall of mirrors,
but nothing will measure you here
and find you wanting.
AUTUMN SKY | CHARLES SIMIC
In my great grandmother’s time,
All one needed was a broom
To get to see places
And give the geese a chase in the sky.
The stars know everything,
So we try to read their minds.
As distant as they are,
We choose to whisper in their presence.
Take a clock that has lost its hands
For a ride.
Get me a room at Hotel Eternity
Where Time likes to stop now and then.
Come, lovers of dark corners,
The sky says,
And sit in one of my dark corners.
There are tasty little zeroes
In the peanut dish tonight.