Monday Jul 22

  EricTrethewey Eric Trethewey is aprofessor of English at Hollins University. He is the author of five collections of poems, Dreaming of Rivers, Evening Knowledge, The Long Road Home, Songs and Lamentations and Heart's HornbookEvening Knowledge was a winner in the 1990 Virginia Prize for Poetry. His literary scholarship includes articles on various writers, including Matthew Arnold and Joseph Conrad. His poems, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, among them The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The New Republic, The Southern Review and Canadian Literature. The Home Waltz, a screenplay, won the Virginia Governor’s Screenplay Competition.

Autumn Sunday

Back home, just off the Interstate, the two of us,
like so many others, intend to hoard whatever is left
of freedom before another week begins.
Indoors, the books slump dusty on their shelves,
and the plants appear betrayed in the overcast day’s late light.
The radio you’ve turned on oozes unintended anguish
in the sentimental lyrics of a country song reminding us
of something that we and the singer have in common.
For a time we sit and listen, riffle the pages of magazines,
rouse ourselves into speech as if to reaffirm an old habit,
our fierce addiction to words in silent, object-littered space—
words that go around and around whatever they mean to say.
With blunted awareness, we await the next movement,
unsurprising, predictable almost, of consciousness.
Whatever else this is, it is not a privileged moment.
Through a window, we see the tall water oak,
shallow-rooted companion of our domestic days,
beginning to shed its leaves, preparing to go naked
into the winter world before us; we watch
as the window darkens and gives us back
to ourselves, phantoms enveloped by darkness.
Soon, in this miniscule wedge of time,
you may begin to prepare food and I to build
a fire to ward off autumn’s chill.
Later, we may sip bourbon before the fireplace,
and lose ourselves in the narcosis of flame.
But for now, near the end of another stingy weekend,
the dissembling fictions of hope and home fall like leaves,
leaving exposed the frail, bare stalk of what we are.