Don Thompson: “October”

American Life in Poetry: Column 341

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Here’s a poem of mixed feelings by Don Thompson to help us launch October. Thompson lives in Buttonwillow, California, which sounds like the name of a town in a children’s story, don’t you think?

October

I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.

Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.

Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.

This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.

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