The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn
By Elizabeth Spires

"In Heaven It Is Always Autumn"
—John Donne

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's path no longer feel the weight of hears upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down, the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?

Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must be heaven.


For the last day of spring break, we went to Mount Vernon to see the lambs. We knew from experience that they would be out in the public pens by this time of year, and it was a gorgeous, clear, not-too-warm day. Alexandria didn't look too crowded when we drove through despite its being a work day with construction on Route 1, but Mount Vernon's parking lots were overflowing with tourists. I imagine there was a wait to get into the mansion, but we didn't try -- we save that for bad weather days. Instead we walked first to the small open barn with Hog Island sheep, where there were about two dozen lambs running around after their mothers in the field or resting in the shade; then we stopped to see the orchard, pigs, cattle, and chickens on the way to the lower farm near the river, where we talked to reenactors cooking over an open fire and visited more sheep.


We had a late lunch at California Tortilla because the lines in the Mount Vernon cafeteria were very long, then stopped to get Daniel poster board for a school project before I took Adam to tennis, which was not postponed for spring break. There were only three kids this week so again he had a nearly private lesson, though the woman he doesn't like very much was teaching rather than the two guys he does like. We had soup for dinner since we had a big late lunch, then we all watched Heroes, which I liked because it was an Angela Petrelli story and involved most of the characters I like without most of the ones who annoy me (and Diana Scarwid!), but it did nothing to convince me that the current producers can make any sense of the last four hundred plot twists (and I think they completely contradicted something we knew about Mohinder's father, but I may just be confused without a scorecard). The Orioles pulled out their game against Texas, so the evening ended well!

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