WisconsinRoadsideMemorials

Charles Josh MaierHwy 14, east of Black Earth, Dane Co. [Lat: 43.152393, Long: -89.765686]

Yellow October

Suddenly it comes to me
as I sit here in the late light
of yellow October, everything in the back yard
illuminated around me --

yellow the maple leaves,
yellow the columbine stalk,
yellow the sunlight
falling across my shoulders
in wide gold bands --

that it was about this time
nearly thirty years ago
when you began making preparations
to leave us forever,
wrapping yourself a little more each day
into your old black coat
with the hammered brass buttons.

When I was very young
you kept a vigil
beside my hospital crib
the spring my fever wouldn't come down
and the doctors told you
I would probably die.
No she won't, you said,
standing, sitting, sleeping beside me
until you were all I could see
and I felt your gaze upon me,
melting the ice they had packed me in
the way this yellow light
soaks into my shoulders.

I could not do the same for you,
calling you back from the frontier
that separates the dead from the living
the way a mother calls a child.
And yet I see now, again in yellow October,
that it is not losing you that matters
so much as knowing you at all,

that you are the autumn
I pull around my shoulders each year
like a soft woolen shawl, grateful
for such a wide swath of yellow light
woven between the black borders.


Alison Townsend from The Blue Dress: Poems and Prose Poems