My poetry revolves around my life on the farm and the changing seasons. Here are a few poems about my favorite season.
(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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
About Kathleen M. Tenpas
We have a grazing dairy of 55 cows in the rolling hills of western New York State where we raised two daughters who have now blessed us with four grandchildren. I have messy, jungly beds of old roses, (some real antiques left by former owners), perennials, wildflowers and lots and lots of not so ornamental grasses! I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry from Antioch University. I am a photographer and fabric artist and I bake a mean loaf of bread.