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Seasonal Change

October 2019

The autumnal equinox has passed, days are shorter, colors are vivid in nature although they are also fading and perhaps dying, or at least going into a kind of seasonal hibernation.

I saw Elizabeth Alexander's poem "Equinox" on the Academy of American Poets "Teach This Poem" project page. (read and listen to the poet read her poem online or find it in her collection Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010) I have written elsewhere about the signs of nature and weather lore are believed by many to signal the change of seasons and act as signs of the weather to come. The changing of the seasons has long interested poets.

In late summer and fall, worker bees work long hours collecting enough nectar to feed and maintain the colony throughout the winter. Most bees stay in the hives all winter, but new queens hibernate alone underground. The former queen, the male bees and the female worker bees fall in autumn, dying out.

In her poem, Alexander writes the bees in late September and their late burst of energy.

Now is the time of year when bees are wild and eccentric.
They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants

She writes that the bees are "dervishes because they are dying" but the poem moves on to how Alexander connects this sign from nature to her own world and her grandmother.

Our October prompt is to write about the changing of seasons, but you need to connect it with something outside of nature - perhaps, your life, or something in the news or from history.

Autumn is a lot more than bees. And there are four seasons (and those odd days between seasons) to choose from for your writing.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


It's a new season. Autumnal
freedoms alternate with the
cold, barren boundaries of winter.
An unexpected Indian Summer
interrupts the nature of things.
Rusty leaves tickle the edges of
the full moon this November.
Less time to contemplate.
Paralyzed by an unforgiving
world of contradictions.
Frosted windows separate me
from the chilly night. Fragile
and pale, I await an early spring.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


It is a strange time
not unlike twilight
Early autumn
not at its peak
certainly not past
And no way near what
one might call
I’m still in a summer
frame of mind
Wanting to hold onto
those last, long easy days
filled with light
and air that smolders
thick with water and roses
Nature’s summer lover
Bare and ripe
I close my eyes
And I can still breathe it in
I am not good at change
My mother and daughter
Seven decades
of generations apart
One slipping from me
from herself
My daughter growing
into her own
soon leaving our home
I want to catch mom
Anchor her in place
journey her back
to better times
when she was she
living the stories
she no longer recalls
Days when she emerged
From her bath
Scented with
the citrus splash
of Jean Nate
and powder to boot
Her granddaughter
Loves her soaks as well
Her fragrance swirls
warm and fragrant
as vanilla cake
Fresh and sweet
My two flowers
One withering
The other in full bloom
Both moving onward
I can only watch
No longer ignoring the
changes I see and feel
The cooler mornings
and earlier evenings
Change is good they say
Nature demands it
It will surely have its way
bending us like trees in an angry storm
But I will dig my heels into the earth
of which I too am a part
For did I not bring her into this world
And did she not bring me
Yet nature will have them both
In this the fall of my mid years
leaves cascade from branches
next spring’s compost
I mourn the green they once were
And I make a note to thank them
when the earth reawakens
months from now
vibrant, alive
No new without old
To celebrate one
Is to mourn the other
I pull up the covers
Against the chilled morning air
Refusing to let go

Terri J. Guttilla


This tree knew autumn before I was born
and will likely know seasons after I die.
This rock knew this place before any trees
and will survive me and the trees.
But right now I'm watching the squirrel
who uses our fence top like a highway,
and the chipmunks who use its
double-boarded pathways at top and bottom
like protected subway lines.
The seasons are changing
even if this rock looks the same,
and the tree changes in the same way every year,
and the squirrels and chipmunks die but
their offspring look the same.
I go season to season, getting older,
like the animals, the plants and the rocks.

Charles Michaels


These pleasant autumn days, we circle
the slash-piles – remains of an oak that fell
last winter. We’re salvaging tinder-kindling-
cordwood to keep us woodstove-warm
at home. We hope this fall-cleaning
of the woods will make us wildfire-safe.
But Climate Change is changing everything.
Now, red-flag season lasts all year.
When we’ll gather for Thanksgiving,
whole towns might be burning. Will we
be next? Squirrels are garnering for winter.
Bees have disappeared from our garden.
I’m told, they wake from hibernation
when coyote-bush blooms in December –
drab chaparral of vacant lots, bursting
with white blossom, alive with bees.
I’ve seen bulldozers uprooting coyote-bush
for a new highway interchange. More cars,
fewer bushes and trees; more climate change.
I think about all this as the seasons change
to another Fall.

Taylor Graham

With words from A Leaf-Treader by Robert Frost

I’m washing my sweaters in Woolite and laying them flat to dry on several layers of towels on the guest room bed while the ceiling fan runs on high speed in order to dry them. This is part of the autumn ritual that also includes moving my winter clothes into the bedroom closet while I store my summer clothes in the guest room.

After washing the first load of sweaters this morning, I took the dog for a walk and wore my tattered but warm, wine colored dog-walking-outside-chores coat. The one with the torn lining that my husband referred to as a “rag” and begged me to throw away. “Never,” I said. “It’s just broken in and has years of wear left in it.” Though my husband is no longer here to admonish me about wearing rags,

I still hear his voice and see him in the trees that are quickly losing their leaves. I see him in the bare branches that were his favorite photographic subjects and remember that it was more than four decades ago that we met in California, in a very different kind of autumn.

It was cool that morning, sweatshirt weather and was drizzling, which is what passes for rain in Southern California. We were waiting in Verdugo Park for our sons to return with their hiking club and I saw him walking in, and obviously enjoying, the rain. I got out of my car to join him and while we walked, we struck up a conversation and I told him how I missed the four seasons of my home state of Pennsylvania and he admitted the same longing for the weather in his home state of Indiana. Talk of our mutual longing for colorful falling leaves led to four decades of a wonderful life together.

So, today, while I was outdoors with the dog, I walked upon and kicked up the dried, brown leaves, felt them crunch underfoot and was transported back to the early days of our relationship when we were lost in one another and he read poetry to me – something that he continued to do all the years of our marriage. At the time, he was immersed in Robert Frost and one Sunday afternoon, as I curled up on his couch he read to me A Leaf-Treader: I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired, the poem began and I listened as he and Frost talked of the leaves of summer providing shade overhead but threatening, under their breath, the inevitable fall and their death. I understood the promise of grief in this poem but, at that time in my life, didn’t really identify with it or anticipate my own grief or the death of either of us.

I’m older now, in the fall of my life, and the beneficiary of the lessons and experiences that the years thrust upon me whether I wanted them or not. It was in the autumn that he came into my life and in the autumn that he died and left me. I miss him. His essence and his love are etched upon my soul never to be forgotten but safely tucked away in my heart. So, I’ll keep treading on leaves, will hunker down for the winter and prepare warm comfort foods and wait to welcome the buds of spring that will emerge on the bare limbs of the trees. But, for today, I will continue to wash my sweaters and lay them flat to dry.

Elaine Piper

DAYS TUMBLE FORWARD (a nonce sonnet)

Spring sprints into summer,
a triumphant runner
on the verge of victory.
Summer sails into Autumn,
enjoying the sea breeze
that plays with its hair.
Autumn sneaks into winter,
a thief stealing the last
balmy jewels of its life.
Winter careens into spring,
a boozy loser in a tavern
groping for the exit door.

And my days tumble forward from nadir to crest,
nevermore to find a moment to rest.

R. Bremner


From autumn's littered foliage reflected,
The moon shines bright
Light into my life,
And I sink into a raindrop puddle.

I look at my night's protector
In the sky and wonder and wonder
Why does the rainbow neither start nor end?
And I trust my mother's words:
I shall change my mind and change my way.

Victor Green


Crows blacken trees that tower
Outside my study window
They've come to town
Like farm hands on a Friday night
Looking for a place to get warm
And a meal
Their raucous shouts wake me from a nap
Remind me of other signs I've missed
Of winter on the doorstep:
Weary songbirds trudging south, under cover of night
Squirrels quarreling - frantic shoppers, stocking up before a hurricane
Crickets in the basement playing hide and seek

I am running out of time

To plug the holes that let them in
Before mice follow
To set up shop behind the bedroom wall

Running out of time

To split logs that lounge against the shed
Clean gutters fouled with sludge
Rake leaves before they freeze
Into a slick brown mat

I shake my head

Reach for a book
Fallen to a cluttered floor
And open it
Another world beckons
One free of chores
The aches and pains of growing old
Inked tentacles reach out and drag me in
I'm swallowed whole
Trapped in the Kraken's belly
But, for the moment, safe
From winter's withering gaze

Frank Kelly