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I. September

New England comes to flower dying.

Leaves like new-blown blossoms trail

in fluttered rage from tainted trees.

The year grows willful. Stagnant ponds

strain to clamber quarry walls.

Time slips indenture, backing age

on fuddled age, confusing fall

with summer-snow with hawthorn flurries,

apple flakes along black boughs.

North of Boston, fire falls

from tree to tree, and leaf by leaf

perverse New England springs to bloom.

The world is kindling for the Lord.

Sour births and welcome slaughters,

gravid fathers getting sons,

eastern sunsets, maddened mothers,

brazen midnights, talking dogs

expounding blood and mongerings of war:

I woke to see New England burning,

woke to see September’s flames

streaming like the blood of martyrs

guttered in the towns of Maine.

I watched the woods of Concord catch,

the flash of Canaan, Bethel, Keene,

the raging hills of Holyoke.

The forests of Vermont have gained

for Boston not a single day

and all the trees of Plymouth rise

like smoke of children passed through fire-

for every falling leaf’s a spit

of flame that wants New England’s death

and every leaf’s a burning tongue

that cries for vengeance from our wrongs.

II. October

The twisted roots begin to stir.

Now mulched with new-born children’s soft

unsuckled greenstick bones, they pry

among the topsoiled Irish graves.

The daughters of dead chambermaids

skip Mass to flirt on Salem’s greens.

New England’s gravemuck clogs their feet.

Down, down, the fat roots reach

for bankers’ nieces, shy white-bodied

girls who giggled once out loud

and blushed and fled the bright cotillion;

for Amherst boys, their new mustaches

wet with ice, who laughed and steamed

and tugged off mittens with their teeth.

Rolled on surging roots, the dead

Atlantic sailors rise and fall,

the Gloucestermen come safe to shore.

A button on a bright gray shroud,

a patch of blue, love clasped with grief-

there was a time such things survived

but now all death is drained of life.

The cold divines who preached from Kings,

the stone-fence farmers, Mohawk hunters,

pewtersmiths, Green Mountain boys,

harpooners, poets, pinned-sleeve bluecoats:

Netted roots have wrapped them round,

sapped them, and plunged deeper down

toward ancient gulfs where first blood flowed.

At the world’s core lies a lake

where slaughters stream and pale roots drink.

The thick remains of sin are coursing

through October trees to splatter

red New England’s sky with leaves.

III. November

Off Winter Harbor, Christmas Cove,

Fairhaven, Wellfleet-now the cold

gray sea turns back against the shore.

Hard combers rake between the rocks

for bottles, paper, bits of glass.

Angry whitecaps scour the beach

and foam among the driftwood dams.

The signs were there but who believed?

The long cold grass along the hill

stiff with scripts of morning frost,

the ragged geese-Vs pointing south,

the rains that splayed the yellow leaves

like opened wounds along the path:

Still the forecast winter stalled

and we forgot what follows fall.

New England’s cold November sets

bare ruined oaks against gray skies.

A thousand leafless crosses weave

among the trees. No hue remains.

This is the killing time between

the crime and judgment, act and pain,

the pregnant days when we pretend

that consequences will miscarry-

witness perjured, time suborned-

until at last the winter breaks,

sweeping down the western hills

across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

to fill the valleys, close the woods,

entomb the cities, still the seas.

Deep in snow New England holds

lovely, silent, finished, clean.

What mercy after such forgiveness?

What resurrection waits on spring?