O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
translated by Richard Rutt
On that screen are painted a cat with its front teeth bared
and a little mouse in front of the cat.
Oh, that cat looks a swift one.
It is going to catch that mouse!
Shall I too see if I can find some bashful lover
and try to catch him?
A bride and a groom sitting in an open buggy
in the rain, holding hands but not looking
at each other, waiting for the rain to stop,
waiting for the marriage to begin, embarrassed
by the rain, the effect of the rain on the bridal
veil, the wet horse with his mane in his eyes,
the rain cold as the sea, the sea deep as love,
big drops of rain falling on the leather seat,
the rain beaded on a rose pinned to the groom’s
lapel, the rain on the bride’s bouquet,
on the baby’s breath there, the sound of the rain
hitting the driver’s top hat, the rain
shining like satin on the black street,
on the tips of patent leather shoes, Hokusai’s
father who polished mirrors for a living, Hokusai’s
father watching the sky for clouds, Hokusai’s father’s son
drawing rain over a bridge and over the people crossing
the bridge, Hokusai’s father’s son drawing the rain
for hours, Hokusai’s father rubbing a mirror, the rain
cold as the sea, the sea cold as love, the sea swelling
to a tidal wave, at the tip of the wave white.
Could Beatrice, as Dante did, create,
Or Laura sing of love and passion’s heat?
I’ve taught our women how to speak of late
But, Lord, I ask you…how to make them cease!
On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—”the tree
of Heaven”—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West 20th in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.
The day gets slowly started.
A rap at the bedroom door,
bitter coffee, hot cereal, juice
the color of sun which
isn’t out this morning. A
cool shower, a shave, soothing
Noxzema for razor burn. A bed
is made. The paper doesn’t come
until twelve or one. A gray shine
out the windows. “No one
leaves the building until
those scissors are returned.”
It’s that kind of a place.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen worse.
The worried gray is melting
into sunlight. I wish I’d
brought my book of enlightening
literary essays. I wish it
were lunch time. I wish I had
an appetite. The day agrees
with me better than it did, or,
better, I agree with it. I’ll
slide down a sunslip yet, this
crass September morning.