(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 9, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

Living in the northeast, I have the advantage of four full seasons. I have always loved autumn best for its colors and harvest, for its slowing and gathering in, for its quiet. It often begins on a late summer afternoon.

Dance Tune

Chipmunk and partridge
have forgotten me,
sitting here on this rock.
They rustle through leaves
fallen early. A cricket
that sat silent suddenly
raises a song on his silken black legs,
thrumming a dance tune to the ants.

He and I know
our days are numbered.

The gardens become less boisterous, time seems to slow and the undertones become more evident.

Garden Ghosts

A shuffle and tap,
leaves on the stone path,
a twig against the bench,
but look quickly, there,
glimmer of a long cloth coat
scarf pulled close
scent of anise and camphor
the sense of a presence,
long accustomed

those who first dug this dirt,
nurtured these blooms
mingled over centuries and continents
across a cold sea
to this place where I
am left a green legacy.

I know it's coming.


Gathering seeds for next year
and discussing with chickadees
the wheres and whyfores
of who-did-it, I find myself
in September with out a clue
as to how I got here so suddenly.
Leaves dance on the roof
and skitter up the drive
in a north wind that only days ago
was from the south.
How could I have been so careless
as to let time
get by me?

And come it does.

September Comes

September comes with

golden rods sparking fireworks
blooms amidst the gaudy asters.

Trees tease with leaves that fade to yellow
or orange, but not quite.

Late in the month, in the gathering
gloom, they glow, just a bit.

October, with shorter days, dares

the trees put on gypsy dress,
and dance out their ruffle of falling leaves.

The ground is a magic carpet
of reds and russets, golds and bronze,

all a rustle around the pumpkin
grinning orange and moonlit.


Yet even in the beauty, there is sorrow.

To Be Brave in Grief

The moon rose over trees
dressed in reds and golds,
the colors promises in the dark,
but the year draws in
and the cost,
the cost comes high.
To be brave in grief
takes a toughness of spirit
we might have
when a dawn comes with bare branches
and the mind works a tune
the wind found too sad.

I can't stay in, even when the weather turns.

October Wind

A cold October wind
slaps me up side the head
makes my eyes tear
turns my gloved hands blue.
Bringing in cold Canadian air
it bullies the last leaves from the yard.

And when the dance is done,


A clear orange light
like the flesh of new cut pumpkin
spills over the western edges
onto the late October afternoon,
shadows of bare branches
creep up eastern slopes
darkening the way for small hauntings,
cold fingers touch up my spine
and an errant breeze
called from the stillness
by my presence
lifts my hair like
new born spirits afloat.


And then the days grow shorter and even the geese take new tacks.

Altered Nature

The wild geese go over
in the early dark,
more audible than visible.
Flying north to a sheltered pond,
they stay and glean the harvested fields,
ignoring the flyway, abandoning
ancient paths south.
Earlier every day, they will soon
seek bigger waters
slower to ice.

I find myself putting up and storing by, as I was taught as a child.

The Smell of Apples

The apple is odd, doesn’t really
look like a Northern Spy,
but when I slice it into two halves,
the smell takes me
to my grandmother’s livingroom,
card table set
with pans for peelings
bowls for thin slices
glass pie plates lined with crust,
my very own paring knife.
This is new to me,
I am not sure my mother would approve,
but she is up the hill in our house,
and I sit silently halving the apples
that Grandma peels and cores and slices
while her stories play on the black and white tv.

It comes to an ending too soon, and there is the ancient fear of the dark.

Say a Poem
for Carole

“Say a poem for me,”
she writes and I try,
lost in the dark of late
November, worrying words
across pages covered
with flurries of self-pity
and mocking contempt for my
frailty in the face
of what must always come.
The solstice advances
one short day closer and I
fear the darkening,
like cottagers who braved
the blackness to light
a fire, stave off eternity.
My words flame up, hopes and prayers
left on the plain of the page.

And in the end, thanksgiving.

from The Roses

November found rugosas, those who
had been first now at the last,
buds picked through flurries
from bare branches for thanksgiving.


All poems are coyright Kahtleen M. Tenpas and used with permission

"Dance Tune", "Garden Ghost", "To be Brave in Grief", "Altered Nature", "The Smell of Apples", "Say a Poem" and "The Roses" are from the book Weeds

All photos are property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission. The Fabric painting September Comes is the property of Jessica Heiser and used with her permission.