July 2, 2012 November for Beginners

From one former poet laureate to another: Rita Dove served in the post from 1993-4. Her work is noted not only for its political import, but also a lyricism and simple beauty. Many of her poems and characters seem easy to talk to. This one, however, had me stumped a bit. Who’s the we she’s speaking from? And this poem, too, brings us an examination of seasons, or seasons changing. Those of us the hotlands can welcome its mention of snow and wind. -ed.

NOVEMBER FOR BEGINNERS

Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.

 

So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
memorizing

 

a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!

-1981

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