Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn

God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies; in Paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always autumn, his mercies are ever in their maturity.  –John Donne

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn, by Elizabeth Spires

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's paths no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down,
    the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?
Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun
    shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must
    be heaven.

In heaven it is always autumn

Today my friend Walt shared Elizabeth Spire’s poem taken from a line in a sermon by John Donne.

His sermon and her poem, both beautiful each in their own way, stir that thing of Fall in me – the thing so many find in Spring – the life-stirring thing – that makes each smell more pungent, each feeling more poignant.

My spring cleaning has always happened, when at all, in the Fall.

My joy has always come not at the flower’s first bud, but at the leave’s last burst.

It is the fullness of what has been more than the promise of what might yet be that captivates me.

Thus does the ugly-spoken word always jar the more in Fall – not here, not now – wait til Winter or better still, Spring, for such things.  They must not be spoken here.

With the greed of the small child, I am jealous of each Fall – for every bend, every curve in the road, brings a new panoply of color and movement and sound – each more spectacular than the last if only for its first viewing by my esurient eyes.

Were I a dog, it would be dropped golden leaves and not a stick that would jut ridiculously from my mouth.  Were I a cat, it would be crunchy curled leaves and not the mouse, played and replayed between my claws.

I am but a woman and so it is my eyes, my nose and my feet that feast.  As it should be.

For the sheer bravery of Fall, as each thing dies sure it will be resurrected, moves my eyes to tears, my nose to lift seeking into the air and my feet to dancing.

Fall again.

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