KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Poem: 248 words

Autumn in the Heart

by Judy Jordan
All day ashes sift down like gray, dry snow,
to settle in the fields and coat the creek and pond 
and grind into the porous opening of all things,
even the blood in my own veins slowing under
this darkened, ash-hammered sky.

In Chinese calligraphy, Autumn in the heart is sorrow,
                                                                            sun going down,
flowers heavy with seed, cucumbers swollen
and yellow on the vine, trees felled and burned,
the paper company’s two thousand acres sold,
                                                            a gated community,
half-a-million-dollar house every half-acre, eighteen-hole golf course.
Already the bull dozers crash through the woods,
paving out horse trails and nature walks.

The sky eases down and all the particularities
of land vanish in corpse-light. No revelation,
no answer in the spiders spinning in their webbed cages,
no answer in the frog grunting under the bed
or in this birch, lightning struck, shattered,
split root to crown, yet for two years in a row
sending out shoots all along its trunk.

But what can this birch say now in the endless
high revving of chainsaws, what can it say 
to these years spent in a greenhouse, 
years gone now, tumbled into the star-wheeling sky?
And to the ashes lighting on the horses restless in the fields,
drifting over the Gaillardia and Astilbe, sifting across the Aster and Spirea,
catching on the leaves, trees forced to bear this indignity,
burnt remnants of felled trees filling the sky,
                                                            floating like lost children to their arms.

—From the author’s third book, Hunger, which chronicles the two years she lived in a greenhouse; the manuscript is with LSU Press.

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