It’s becoming dark now at 4, full dark by 5. We should expect this, since it happens every year, but somehow it always comes as a surprise. I scurry around trying to get ready for winter, cleaning the gutters one last time, stacking firewood, chopping kindling, getting the garden ready for winter. The garden has been a problem this year. My herbs remain green even after a few nights with frost. I still have my rake and hoe on the porch, but I think I’m going to put them away this week no matter what happens with the garden.

We’ve had a lot of rain and that makes the darkness harder to bear. At least, since I’m retired, I no longer have to come home in the dark. I seldom go out now. It’s called growing older. Or maybe it’s called living through a pandemic.

Until the winter solstice the nights will keep getting longer, and the lack of light affects us all. It inspired Betsy Headley to write the poem “Solar Shift.” She found the change abrupt and she says it “had a profound effect on me.” She does well describing the transformation of autumn to winter as she explores the natural evolution of the process. She notes that “moonlight illuminates the night, but only the sun nurtures existence.” The sun brings the promise of hope, but I love the ending to her poem where life is now “condensed and edgy.”

Betsy is from Belfast and is an artist as well as a poet. You can find this poem in her book, “Something is Always Left,” from Indie Author Warehouse.


Solar Shift

As the last leaves tumble

like shriveled confetti,

the flush of autumn fades.


Spindled branches touch

the gray heaving sky and

scratch until white flakes,

like dry winter skin,

drift to spiked grasses

glistening from an early frost.


Dusk? There is no dusk.

Light turns to dark in one motion,

one sweep of an inked brush

spilling like a Rorschach test

over the edge of the sky.


Only the moon in its fullness

breaks the ebony silence

like a howling wolf imploring

companions to unite

and join the awakening.


When morning comes

the sun lays out a feast

of light for the starving

and life resumes,

condensed and edgy.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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