By Kiki Petrosino
By Arthur Peterson
Out I went into the meadow,
Where the moon was shining brightly,
And the oak-tree’s lengthening shadows
On the sloping sward did lean;
For I longed to see the goblins,
And the dainty-footed fairies,
And the gnomes, who dwell in caverns,
But come forth on Halloween.
“All the spirits, good and evil,
Fay and pixie, witch and wizard,
On this night will sure be stirring,”
Thought I, as I walked along;
“And if Puck, the merry wanderer,
Or her majesty, Titania,
Or that Mab who teases housewives
If their housewifery be wrong,
Should but condescend to meet me”—
But my thoughts took sudden parting,
For I saw, a few feet from me,
Standing in the moonlight there,
A quaint, roguish little figure,
And I knew ’twas Puck, the trickster,
By the twinkle of his bright eyes
Underneath his shaggy hair.
Yet I felt no fear of Robin,
Salutation brief he uttered,
Laughed and touched me on the shoulder,
And we lightly walked away;
And I found that I was smaller,
For the grasses brushed my elbows,
And the asters seemed like oak-trees,
With their trunks so tall and gray.
Swiftly as the wind we traveled,
Till we came unto a garden,
Bright within a gloomy forest,
Like a gem within the mine;
And I saw, as we grew nearer,
That the flowers so blue and golden
Were but little men and women,
Who amongst the green did shine.
But ’twas marvelous the resemblance
Their bright figures bore to blossoms,
As they smiled, and danced, and courtesied,
Clad in yellow, pink and blue;
That fair dame, my eyes were certain,
Who among them moved so proudly,
Was my moss-rose, while her ear-rings
Sparkled like the morning dew.
Here, too, danced my pinks and pansies,
Smiling, gayly, as they used to
When, like beaux bedecked and merry,
They disported in the sun;
There, with meek eyes, walked a lily,
While the violets and snow-drops
Tripped it with the lordly tulips:
Truant blossoms, every one.
Then spoke Robin to me, wondering:
“These blithe fairies are the spirits
Of the flowers which all the summer
Bloom beneath its tender sky;
When they feel the frosty fingers
Of the autumn closing round them,
They forsake their earthborn dwellings,
Which to earth return and die,
“As befits things which are mortal.
But these spirits, who are deathless,
Care not for the frosty autumn,
Nor the winter long and keen;
But, from field, and wood, and garden,
When their summer’s tasks are finished,
Gather here for dance and music,
As of old, on Halloween.”
Long, with Puck, I watched the revels,
Till the gray light of the morning
Dimmed the luster of Orion,
Starry sentry overhead;
And the fairies, at that warning,
Ceased their riot, and the brightness
Faded from the lonely forest,
And I knew that they had fled.
Ah, it ne’er can be forgotten,
This strange night I learned the secret—
That within each flower a busy
Fairy lives and works unseen
Seldom is ‘t to mortals granted
To behold the elves and pixies,
To behold the merry spirits,
Who come forth on Halloween.
By Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
By Helen Hunt Jackson
Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.
By Edward Hirsch
Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
By Faiz Ahmed Faiz
This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.
The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.
Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.
Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.
By Scott Challener
THE CLOUDS ACHIEVE a storm. The trees achieve
a branching, some buds. The bee
achieves the vertiginous act of
pollen transport. But what we have
made is not achievement, not beauty.
with the stamen of the floribunda rose—
these are not our channels, not our despites.
Their disregard for us, who stand near them
awkward and happy some nights for hours
talking out our lives, remains undiminished.
The great text is great because it is un-
written. What we do together when
we are lonely or our bodies greedy
is not a triumph of nature. What happens
to our mouths in the vicinity of one another
is not a natural but an irrational act, beyond
manufacture. Beauty in nature depends
on optical properties such as color and brilliance
displayed to maximum advantage. The barbs
in the feathers of the black-throated magpie
or the buff-breasted paradise kingfisher
participate in rituals of enticement and
intimidation as they participate in the mechanism of flight.
Pain in the trees, pleasure on the wing.
And below, the kiss, having nothing
to do with us or the calendar of our days, achieves
its forgiveless shape, silently maneuvering
our bodies closer to the rose bed.
By Ocean Vuong
A FINGER’S WORTH of dark from daybreak, he steps
into his mother’s red dress. A flame caught
in a mirror the width of a coffin. Glint of steel
in the back of his throat. A flash, a white
how he dances. The sky-blue
wallpaper peeling into hooks as he twirls, his horse-
head shadow thrown wildly on the family
portraits, glass cracking beneath
its stain. He moves like any other
fracture, revealing the briefest doors. The dress
petaling off him like the skin
of a shredded apple. Outside, branches thrash into black applause
as if darkness isn’t sharpening
inside him. This horse with its human face.
This belly full of blades.
As if dancing could stop the heart
of his murderer from beating between
How easily a boy
in a dress the red of shut eyes
beneath the sound of his own
galloping. How a horse will run until it breaks
into weather—into wind. How like
the wind, they will see him. They will see him
when the city burns.
By Boomer Pinches
ANY MOMENT NOW I ran away from home. It was only my home
the way an ocean is only water. Most of the days passed me by
limbs, those parts of you gone missing that you can still feel. But do they
still feel you? Shrugs, embarrassed sighs. The village is practically a city
by now and I’m miles away. Any moment now the clock is invented.
against you. My first night on the island I counted stars in the basement
of a museum, with only broken statues for comfort. Any moment now my wife
will be born to parents who hardly recognize her. Everyone else is already
accounted for, everyone else is virtually family, though not my family. All across
the fulvous plain, they await their purpose. The fires in the hills signify nothing
more than their own wonder at how readily the world around them burns.
Cinereous earth, cinereous sky. The heat you feel is just matter fleeing itself.
All the next morning I speak with phantoms who mistake me for their home.
I count down the days until the villagers move into the museum. Children
will press their faces up against the glass to have a closer look at the world
as it was without them, they will elbow each other out of the way and warm
the pane with their breath and wonder how it was we were ever anything
but these terrarium creatures frozen in lament. Here is my promise, wife:
I will recognize you.
By Dean Rader
Black bell, ring the blue boat
of my bones back to the beach
of this world, make me an ear
so that I might hear the sound
a mouth—don’t let me drown—
don’t let me sink the way lives
sink, the way the dead drop into
as when the wind rends the rake—
make me bend the way notes bend,