Happy Fall Equinox to all y'all -- hard to believe Autumn is here already. Fittingly enough, "Autumn" is one of the choices for the Etsybloggers carnival this time around. I thought I'd dust off a poem for the occasion. This is one that I always enjoyed reading at the open mic during this time of year, way back when.
Autumn is the girl without an overcoat
who blows into her hands while she waits for the bus.
The weather waits for her to leave. For weeks
she’s overstayed her welcome, and finally her knapsack
full of jeans and socks and sweaters is no longer enough
to keep her warm. The sky is low and grey;
it smells like snow, clean and metallic,
a smell like a sharp knife of knowledge against her skin.
The driver helps her hoist her bag beneath the bus
and grunts a greeting in reply to her hello. It seems he’s lived
forever, and will never die. She knows his name
and he knows hers, but they rarely say more than hi
and goodbye. Cold coins jingle as she pays her fare.
The floor is sticky from somebody’s spilled soda pop,
and the air inside the bus smells the way that honeysuckle tastes —
a too-sweet bead of summer on her tongue. Two giggling girls
are in the back seat. They look like sisters.
The younger one wears a yellow hooded raincoat,
and the older one is making clover chains. They look up
and stop laughing for a moment. The only other passenger
is a man in a corduroy coat. Autumn smiles at him,
smiles the way she smiled at Randy Lazarus, a lifetime ago,
in a high school gymnasium in Providence, Rhode Island,
because Randy was that cute for a sophomore.
Well, Randy wasn’t that cute for a sophomore,
but when the trees themselves are naked, sometimes a girl will take
whatever warmth she can get, shivering in the backseat
of a Pontiac. The dark boughs of winter
wagged their fingers in the wind as she started to walk home.
That was the first time Joe insisted on picking her up.
She’d tried to hitch a ride for hours, but there’s no traffic
on a dirt road in the boonies. Joe never explained
why he’d taken a detour that night — it was as though
he knew where she would be. He stopped the bus,
refused the fare because she was too young to pay,
because she had a yellow maple leaf in her hair,
stuck behind her ear like a hyacinth blossom.
Autumn settles into her seat, ignoring the giggling girls
at the back of the bus. In a few hours, they’ll
all be braiding each other’s hair and begging Joe
to stop for snacks, but at the moment she’s
about as sociable as a skittish stray kitten,
and as energetic as a yellowed field of grass.
She closes her eyes for a moment, but she never sleeps.
Don’t bother warning the man in the corduroy coat;
he’s already in love with her, but this is his stop, it’s where
he gets off, every time. He has to leave her in order to stay.
She opens her eyes as he stands up, and her level gaze says
everything. Even as the bus sings Christmas carols in the rain,
even as the windshield wipers beat the pulse
of time’s own heart, Joe watches in the rear view mirror,
as the man in the corduroy coat puts on his gloves
and picks up his suitcase. The doors close with a sigh,
and as the bus pulls away, he stands beside the road,
beneath the blessed dome of his own umbrella cathedral,
turning up the collar on his coat and watching
as Autumn waves her handkerchief out the window,
smiling like a woman who knows she will always be alone.