before the colors fall

by James Esch

before the ochre fanbills
flatter our streets,
the mustard-berry
patiently hanging,
reluctant until the
wind chill blows in,
and they let go
knowing it’s time–

like ice, exquisite asterisks inside cubes,
like flurried pixie dust parachuting,
like curtains falling on dusty floorboards:
the glowing cloudscape
mixed emotions:
banging autumn blue in the face,
an embarrassment of crimsons,
marmalade envy,
flaming mood swings–
blinding bright glares
punctuating tree stems
lanky branches yank curtains,
squirrels pirouette, juggling acorns,
and in the fields, foxes dig holes
a deer feint along the sedge,
merges with straw,
wind ushering up the corn rows,
working more than whispering–
long nights by the radiator, frosted windows–

so these days suggest
endings, overtures:
before the colors fall
let the sun linger ’round,
reluctant to bow.

the light insists I notice
the finality of curtain fall
but I keep drinking colors down:
that honey locust tree,
every morning all month long,
catching my slowfoot spirit,
my morning slumber fingers
wrapped around the steering wheel,
all those days coming back
when the afternoon light
feasted on honey yellows.

one insipid morning,
starting the car,
the now bare branches inspect
golden shadows of themselves,
like children wobbling around,
turning to catch a whiff of
sweet memory:
the first day on two wheels
around the block alone,
or walking solo home from school,
clenching first time muscles
tensed and toned
ready to learn freedom,
understanding what it
means to adore
someone as beautiful
as these soft leaves,
the touch of hands,
wooly smell of a sweater–
we soon remember
our colors too
were always falling in
and out of season

James Esch teaches writing and literature at Widener University. His recent work has appeared in Willows Wept Review, Mississippi Crow, Mad Swirl, juked, Cezanne’s Carrot, The Quiet Feather, and Idlewheel. He lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Back to Issue Five: Fall 2009