Friday, November 10, 2017

November Dawn—Murfin Verse Redux

Yup, it’s that time again.  By far the coldest morning of the year, the weather gizmo on my cell phone warned me that it was 13̊ at dawn in McHenry County, which despite the recent clock set-back to Standard Time still comes too damned early.
It has been an unusual Fall, very wet early—the grass never went dormant and is still lush and green where it peeks out from the fallen leaves even when it tinged with morning frost.  Until this week it has mostly been unusually warm.  I was wearing my straw hat and shirtsleeve shirts deep into October. 
We didn’t get a dazzling color display this year.  A lot of trees still hold their green leaves.  Color changes of others were more muted than usual.  The ubiquitous maples, the most common urban tree in these parts since the elms and ash trees were virtually wiped out by disease or vermin, never turned that brilliant, bright yellow we look forward to and they clung to leaves just beginning to leach their green and browning on the edges.  Then on Wednesday morning after the first hard frost of the season as I came to work in bright morning the maples of Crystal Lake and Woodstock began to shed their leaves, falling like a shower into deepening piles all around. 
Still, the chill reminded me of the morning that inspired this poem as I walked to another job as a school custodian in Cary more than 15 years ago.

Mid-November Dawn

The time has come,
            I know, I know.

The soft frosts that fade
            at the first blush of light
            are over.
            The grass snaps now
            with each step,
            the cold seeps around
            the buttons of my coat,
            up my sleeves,
            down my neck.

Of a sudden the leaves,
            just yesterday the glory
            of the season,
            are shed in heaps and drifts.
            The bare arms that held them
            shiver in the dawn.

Long clouds of starlings
            swirl and trail across
            the lowering sky,
            crows clamor over
            carrion earth.

The time has come,
            I know, I know.          

But just when the wail of grief
            wells in my throat,
            the keening for utter loss
            that crowds my senses
            and my soul—
a simple doe ambles unconcerned
across the scurrying road
into a remnant patch of wood,
somewhere just out of sight
the half-maddened stag
thrashes in the brambles.

The time has come,
            I know, I know.

My blood quickens in the cold,
            death falls away.

—Patrick  Murfin
The then Not-So-Old-Man showing off his wares and ready to autograph copies of We Build Temples in the Heart at the old Congregational Unitarian Church in Woodstock back in 2004.

This originally appeared in a slightly different form in my 2004 collection We Build Temples in the Heart published by Beacon Press, Boston.  By the way, I have copies available and will send you or your loved ones a personally inscribed copy for the low, low price of $8.  I’ll even pay the postage!  They make great Christmas stocking stuffers for your literate friends.  Or, piss off your children by using it instead of a lump of coal—they will be just as disappointed and angry!
Message me privately or e-mail and we can exchange postal addresses so you can send me a check and I can send you a book.  Such a deal!

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