Poet's Corner — September

Sep 04, 2014

As I compile September's poetry column, despite the heady warmth of the last gasp of summer, an unmistakable crimson blush is topping a yard maple near City Point and Head of the Tides. Apples are getting cheeky, the sun sets earlier and more golden, stores are rife with notepads and pencils eager to record homework, stories and new poems. Here are two American treasures of September.

For the Chipmunk in My Yard

I think he knows I’m alive, having come down

The three steps of the back porch

And given me a good once over. All afternoon

He’s been moving back and forth,

Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,

While all about him the great fields tumble

To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky

To be where he is, wild with all that happens.

He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows

Living in the blond heart of the wheat.

This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires

Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,

Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter

On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.

─Robert Gibb

September Midnight

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,

Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,

Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,

Ceaseless, insistent.

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,

The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence

Under a moon waning and worn, broken,

Tired with summer.

Let me remember you, voices of little insects,

Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,

Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,

Snow-hushed and heavy.

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,

While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,

As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,

Lest they forget them.

─Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)

For the Chipmunk in My Yard is from What the Heart Can Bear (Autumn House Press, 2009) reprinted here with thanks to Robert Gibb for his personal permission. From Homestead, Pen., Robert Gibb has received two NEA fellowships and has also won a Pushcart Prize and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His latest book of poetry is Sheet Music.

I can never experience the fervent lyricism of Sara Teasdale (1884–1933) without a weighty pang about her poor health and the emotional turmoil leading to suicide not long after her one time intimate companion American poet Vachel Lindsay's. Her poetry was not always appreciated by critics of her time, she nevertheless won the first Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918, a prize that would later be renamed the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The next Poetry Jam, an ongoing open poetry and spoken word (slam poets also welcome) reading at Bell The Cat, is Sept. 19. Signup is at 6:30 p.m. and we start the reading at 7 p.m. The poetry column is curated by Ellen Sander, the Poet Laureate of Belfast, and open to submissions. Send submissions in the body of an email (not an attachment) to laureate@belfastpoetry.com. Feel free to use that email address to communicate any questions, requests, suggestions or issues about poetics in Belfast.

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