* autumning with jane hirshfield

Oyes en medio del otoño
detonaciones amarillas?

(In the middle of autumn
do you hear yellow explosions?)

— Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions


Neruda’s lines above evoke a pleasing moment of synesthesia, blurring the sight of yellow leaves with the sound of explosions. As the season changes, I can’t help but see such blurred moments more and more in life.

This week’s poem, “The Heat of Autumn” by Jane Hirshfield, works its materials on a similar level as Neruda’s question above. Housed under the concept of “heat,” the narrative of the poem draws its details together in a way that imbues meaning, connecting things in an active way.

The third line, for example, refers to the “apples” of one season becoming the “cider” of another. In doing so,  the first of the poem’s many little dramas is enacted. By the end, enough details and imbued meanings have piled upon each other (like leaves), that the “heat” of the title becomes a sensation on both a physical and emotional level.


The Heat of Autumn – Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

(from Hirshfield’s collection After, 2006)


Happy autumning!


* logically legit with rae armantrout

Revisiting the work of Rae Armantrout this week, I realize that some poems hit you with the edges of what they could be saying as they are being said. Armantrout’s work for me always gives me just enough to build a singular impression.

In the poem below, the third section’s image of leaves is baffling in its clarity. The line “Leaf shadows on pavement” is a clipped, definite image, but the stanza that follows brings that image to life through sound and meaning, reaching away from imagery and yet evoking the image nonetheless.

Such things shouldn’t be possible, says the logical part of my brain, but there it is – logically legit.

* leaf good enough alone  *
* leaf good enough alone *

Answer – Rae Armantrout *

a moment of stillness,
demanding an answer.

When does a moment end?


Starbucks prayer;
“Make morning good again.”


Leaf shadows on pavement:

word meaning to slide
to absentmindedly caress.


For I so loved the world

that I set up
my only son

to be arrested.


Happy arresting!


* from Rae Armantrout’s collection, Money Shot.