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Copyright (c) 1999 First Things 96 (October 1999): 24, 41, 55.

Sometimes in Autumn

An overcast day: gray clouds slide

across the sky like platters on a table.

The grasses lift up brown tassels

from an undercoat of yellow;

the grasses have stolen the sun’s yellow.

The wind frisks cars as they speed across

the bridge. Caution Wind Currents the sign says.

In a fury the wind scribbles white caps

upon the muddy river, but no one knows what they say.

Fall is late this year; burning summer

fought dismissal. A single poplar shivers

in the wind: its leaves flicker back and forth

like small hands waving gold and green to winter.

”Mary Freeman

The Conservation of Matter

The fat man sitting

on the edge of his bath

may feel a surge of cheerful vanity

admiring his calves

and vast feet. Enormous things

in a trivial world”

who appreciates beauty?

He sips from bourbon

gliding over ice cubes.

Logically, we extend ourselves in the world.

A handsome symmetry exists

between the thoroughness of construction

and the likelihood of movement

although the volume remains the same

despite the size or shape of the container.

Still, no dog, no matter where or when

he may have acquired his feet,

can walk his chains without getting tangled.

It is this confusion between magnitude and grace

that allows beauty to evade our grasp.

”Samn Stockwell

Lights Out

Wasting light , Mother comments,

Seeing high“rise windows lit,

Not really objecting,

Just commenting on empty, lighted offices,

Something that has always seemed

Pleasantly sinister to her,

As off“hand as she sounds,

The start of a mystery.

Meanwhile the electric company

changes its name again,

Wasting the truth, as Mom,

Wasting nothing, stays close to it,

Seeing as much in what happens

When they are not there

As when they are, surrounding

Her in the day, leaving bright towers

At night that tiny immigrant women

Scrub and empty, and where

Anything might happen

Because nothing does.

At midnight they used to walk

By our house, speaking

Cleaning ladies’ Esperanto,

And then the lights

Went out.

”Lawrence Dugan