'In Heaven It Is Always Autumn' - John Donne

August 16, 1998|By Elizabeth Spires

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near

to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking

L heaven's paths no longer feel the weight of years 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

L 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 bench, 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

JTC 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 Josephine Jacobsen)

! Pub date: 8/16/98

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