Maple yellow, maple red, I see
the killing splendor of your canopy
outside my window as I lie abed
gathering this morning’s go-ahead,
whispering this small apostrophe—

how gracefully you ride time’s tyranny
and know exactly how to be a tree,
rubrics never read, sermons unsaid,
maple yellow, maple red.

Soon you will die, to some degree,
turn prickly gray as colors flee;
but you’ll grow back the brights you shed.
This time next year, I may be dead
while you, most likely once again, may be
maple yellow, maple red.

83 responses »

  1. A marvellous capturing of the ever cyclic autumn… and with a melancholic fall to it. (And it’s great – with the realism of death – to have an autumn poem that’s not maple sugar, maple sweet).

    • The only thing “sweet” about autumn around here is actually that wonderful syrup boiling in the sugar shack! I know you’ve spent time in these parts, still, it must seem wacky now for you to read autumn poems just when you are in the fullness of spring! Thanks, Bruce.

      • We’re still lighting the fire – so autumn breezes are not too distant in feel! In Quebec we had our own sugar shack and 17 acres of maple trees – very state of the art it all was too!

      • Further to the “fullness of spring” but little to do with the wonderful maple poem: it is a long weekend here, and the traditional time to plant tomatoes. There are concrete paths everywhere, so I bought 40 tomatoes plants to put along the edge of the paths; a tomatoes avenue! and one cannot have too many tomatoes! After digging holes and planting them all, I went to town to get some things, and when I returned the goat had broken from his chain and eaten ALL the tomatoes!! Spring is here!

        • Oh no…no….no!! I was just now watching the musical “Billy Elliot” , live from the UK on TV….saying to myself how the curtain call was as good as the show itself….something you would definitely appreciate, with coal miners in tutus….and thinking how I really liked this Billy story….and now an entirely different Billy story! Oh my God….what are you going to do? This sounds just like one of your stories! I guess Billy, your goat, agrees with you: one can’t have too many tomatoes!

          • He also ate the bell peppers (which we call capsicums) and the chilli pepper plants and all my seed trays with growing cucumber, squash, water melon and gourd seedlings – so all-in-all in the space of a few minutes he devoured $116 worth of plants. I love him dearly nonetheless. Tomorrow we (royal “we”) shall start again.

                • So glad you saw the funny in it, Bruce. I didn’t dare tell you I laughed my head off!

                  (There are some upsides to looking at life from older eyes!)

                  And you’ll have a later tomato harvest….in cooler weather, when it’s easier to do the canning!

  2. This time next year, I may be dead
    Which is just as well as syrup sales will again have me in the red

    Dear Cynthia, as you can tell I am not a poet–but I did manage my first rhyme. I’m ecstatic. This poetry stuff may be for me after all!

    • Of course, if you read carefully, you will realize that I stole your rhyme (good artists copy, great artists steal) not having enough confidence in my ability to come up with one of my own. Still, one must start somewhere. Should I tackle the sonnet form next? I think I could come up with something good, probably some kind of cyborg love affair in the not too distant future, where all vestiges of human flesh and unattractive organs are excised and only mathematical simulations of our emotions, which can be turned on or off, remain. I seem to have drifted from the subject of the majestic maple though.

      • I am always pleased when someone steals my work—it means they love poetry more than fame or money. I like your plan for expanding the sonnet form into the kind of love poetry that harkens it back to the days when knighthood was in flower…though what you propose does seem a bit sterile, comparatively. Meanwhile, the majestic maple stands, and says nothing.

        • Sterile, yes, but therein lies the beauty. Imagine, if you will, a Petri dish, no not teeming with rabid bacteria, but rather a clean slate, an oyster white canvas, shimmering like a silken gown worn by a Cinderella lookalike attending a grand ball, where all the guests are squeaky-clean (not a bacterium in sight) and talking about neo-biology and the human condition.

          • Yes, I am imagining it…silken, shimmering, pristine…..and I like that part. But a grand ball? Guests? It’s time I admit my aversion to parties; I have never liked them, not back when the word “party” was a noun, and not now that the word “party” has become a verb. I understand your creative urge to envision this utopia sans bacteria….sounds like heaven, but equally as undesirable as the one with the angels and harps.

            • I am surprised that you eschew the grand ball as I felt certain that a social butterfly such as yourself would have been at home in a crowded room of drunken artists, pyromaniacs, and ecdysiasts.

                • In which case you should arm yourself with fire retardant material. Asbestos petticoats are no longer popular owing to ugly rumors about their safety. This type of disinformation campaign is popular these days.

                  On a personal note, I would love to party with you (a verb I use on occasion). The last party I attended was in 1823, and it was a doozie.

    • There is no question in my own mind: you are a poet. However, whether you are also a poetaster and/or a doer of doggerel remains to be resolved. Your verse, here, is
      a step in……..that direction.

          • No, it was a pajama party held in Burgstädt in honor of a court musician, who kept playing some dreadfully tinny piece he referred to as Für Elise–he said he’d keep playing it till he got it right. “Please don’t. We’ve had enough” said the crowd, but alas he couldn’t hear that well.

            • That piece of music was once the bane of my existence as a twelve-year-old pianist, and I can only imagine how dreadful to others in my environment.

              I’ve read that there is some question about the title’s having been mis-transcribed by later musicologists, and it was really supposed to be Für Theresa. Can’t imagine how that could have happened unless someone was half-blind.

              Anyway, as a twelve-year-old pianist, I thought it had something to do with
              “fur”, as in animal fur…and maybe Elise was a rabbit, or a cat. There were no speakers of German in my parish, though there was the occasional pajama party. (I think they call them “sleepovers,” nowadays.)

    • The eternal nature of nature….something indeed to ponder, Pauline. Still there is another something that seems to tell us we humans are especially important. I always wonder what that is….I hope it’s something natural too! Thank you for reading, and listening….

  3. ….my partner is from the Philippines and his first Fall here found him thinking everything was (literally) dying, especially when the last of the last leaves were blown off by the first flurries, followed by frozen temperatures and blowing snow for months on end. Though in theory he knew there must come life again, in his heart he couldn’t understand how–everything looked so deadened, so final. Spring was an astonishing event as a result, stunning him over how everything seemed to have survived and was returning bit by little green bit. We who grew up in the Northeastern States would have to relive being 5 or 6 again to recall the confused wondering how something so stripped of life as a denuded tree could possibly hold within the secret of a perennial return. And it is here again in your verse.

    • I can only imagine what it must have seemed like to Raul, the first time he experienced the extreme contrasts of our seasons here. I have many readers who live in the southern hemisphere and I have to stop and consider what they must be thinking as they read a poem like this one, which is probably totally irrelevant to their meteorological experience at the moment. But it’s good, too, to know that someone like you shares experience of this crazy Northeastern States environment…. it is all a reminder that our beautiful earth is vast and various. Thank you, as always, my friend.

  4. Just beautiful, Cyn….and it is true, it is all true. May we live each day with this exquisite level of drinking in all the beauty with appreciation, savoring, knowing each moment it may be the last….
    I keep loving being able to hear you read your words. This makes it just so wonderful for me! Thank you!!

    • I’m so glad to hear that about the audio, Julie. Sometimes I wonder if it makes any difference, but I still believe poetry (as it was originally) is about the sound of our language, as well as the meaning…about speech and song, not just all visual and “in the head.” I hope your trees in Cincinnati are being all beautifully yellow and red!

    • A poet reader from Wales told me that the Red Maple has an average life span of 130 years….If your own maple of memory doesn’t outlive you, you can be sure that one of its “offspring” will! There are so many maple seedlings that spring up all around these beautiful trees that they need to be weeded out or they take over! But your memory will likely live with you always….thanks so much for stopping by to read!

    • The color is really vibrant here, this year, but as you say, it is moving quickly, from one day to the next. One maple, outside my kitchen window, does a neat change that has the leaves show yellow to orange to red almost like watercolor on each leaf, still with green around the edges. it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Makes one want to wash dishes and linger at the sink!

  5. I knew this one Cynthia and went to look for it in your book but of course it didn’t make its appearance there but on your blog. It’s beautiful and one for the next book I think.

    • As your astute observation probably tells you, I am now in the habit of re-circulating poems on the blog, and posting them again among the new ones being written…..the readership changes with time, people drop in and out of blogging, the old gang fades and new ones develop—quite a strange world, I think. But you and I are still plugging away at it, and we both know a poem is not a one-shot deal, to be read and tossed away like a penny dreadful.

      Are you at work on your next book? I hope so. I have only four copies left of A Certain Age in this first edition and am thinking to call it “sold out.” soon! Maybe I will start thinking about a second collection. Maybe. As always I love hearing from you, John. Warmest wishes…

      • Yes, the blogosphere is an ever shifting sand dune and I, who only discovered you and your poetry last year, had not read this one. I pray for your longevity, selfishly, to continue to enjoy your poetry. Every one of your poems has something that sticks with me (like maple syrup) both in feeling and phrases. Lately, it takes considerable effort for me to will myself out of bed in the morning so this lovely line “…as I lie abed gathering this morning’s go-ahead” was the weekly Cynthia “aha” phrase.

        • You’ve often said that sometimes your work takes a turn on its own…that happens to me too, especially in rhymed forms. That line you mention just plopped into place when I was writing this poem, and happens to be my favorite, too! Thank you for your kind wishes, Susanne. I think you know I very much value your comments, always.

      • Yes, Cynthia, I’ve been slowly working at a possible new book since the beginning of the year, but on a different theme from The Human Hive. It will take me a year or two yet. Meanwhile perhaps I’ll recycle some of my own earlier blog poems. Best wishes.

        • I’m glad to hear of that new project, John, and look forward to reading the new poems—which I hope you will also share on your blog.

          And yes, do recycle some earlier ones. I have your book to enjoy, but there are plenty of potential readers who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading your work. Poems are eminently recyclable! 🙂

  6. Nature is so cruel and beautiful all at the same time. I think I would love to paint outdoors near where you live Cynthia. We have wetness here now felling all the loose foliage to a drain blocking leaf mâché. Floods will be next! And I truly hope you give nature a run for its money and be inspiring us for a few years yet! 😉

    • You would love the autumn season here, Karen! It is usually vibrant and full of energy—like your paintings!—with flaming red and orange and gold trees among evergreens and against a blue sky, and fresh sunny weather, just cool enough to make a decent distinction between indoors and out. And yes, I am giving nature a run (well, not a run, but a limping walk) for its money.
      Thank you for your kind remarks. 🙂

  7. I love the rhythm of this, the childlike maple yellow/maple red and the almost lightheartedness that crashes out with the word dead, yet is not lost entirely. I’m watching my maples too, and wondering what the next year will bring, then trying to live for the moment of their glory. I remember thinking I’d like to be a tree, on the grounds that some decisions would be much simplified (you’d never have to decide what to wear in the morning).

    • It’s that rondeau rhythm, lighthearted for sure, and childlike. If I remember correctly, you are particularly fond of Japanese maples….they must be beautiful just now. And there certainly are some days when it seems it would be nice to be a tree!

      • And, Hilary, I want to thank you once again for what Is a delightful and insightful review of my poetry book on Green Writing Room.

        I have always enjoyed your book reviews because they are not about books you’ve been assigned to consider, but those you–as an author in your own right— have chosen to read for your enjoyment or enlightenment, and to talk about, in support of fellow authors.

        Nothing better, for a writer, than a boost from one who knows. I am very much honored.

        TO MY READERS…. Hilary is the author of three books (SMALL RAIN, UNSEEN UNSUNG, and BORDERLINE) and is currently preparing for her publisher the manuscript of her new non-fiction book, WRITING TO A GHOST: Letters to the River Kwai, 1941-1945. She blogs at Green Writing Room, here on WordPress.

        • You are very kind. I feel I am very much in the foothills as a writer. Your writing seems to me to be in another class. Incidentally the publishers have retitled the POW book – Surviving the Death Railway: a POW’s Memoirs and Letters from Home – they know their main readership.

          My childhood was full of French poetry, so the rondeau has echoes there for me. The maples are stunning, but the first frosts have arrived, so I may not have much longer.

          • Ha..ha..that’s what publishers are for! If they’re worth their salt, they know what sells. But that book of yours is authentic and important….so…I’m so glad it will be brought out. And it is surely a feather in a writer’s cap to have engaged a trade publisher’s support. I look forward to the final result!

  8. True and beautifully written.
    Let’s consider some existential wisdom from Snoopy.
    Charlie Brown: Someday we will all die Snoopy.
    Snoopy: True, but on all the other days, we will not.

  9. This one resonates. I snuck off to look it up in your book as I was sure that I’d heard it before. but as I read your incredible dialogue with your fan club I realize that maybe I have heard it before. It is a good one – definitely a keeper and repeater. I miss those colorful autumn days of the north. Here in Austin, Texas we celebrate Autumn as a second spring when the plants which couldn’t bear the heat burst into bloom- oxalis, dianthus, mums and so on, even the roses take a shot at a second coming. When ‘winter’ really hits they will go dormant for a few days.

    • Good morning, Jane! (there are still three minutes of a.m. left, here). Yes, I’ve realized lately that I have a blogful of poems that are not in the book, but would be new to the majority of my current readers. I especially cherish the friends….like you and John… who have read them all before, and are still here.

      It seems that your seasonal changes are more subtle than ours. We get whacked with extremes, here in Maine. There’s no doubt about the four distinct ones. I’ve often thought the great beauty of autumn and spring here are nature’s reward for our putting up with the cold and deep snow of winter. For those of us of a certain age, those winters seem colder and deeper each year. And I’ve always wondered what it would be like to spend Christmas in a tropical clime. Almost all of our imagery and tradition inherited from Europeans for that holiday, make no sense at all in those warm places….
      Thanks for your visit, Jane. Hope all is well with you.

  10. Dear Cynthia, this is a gorgeous poem, a touching one too.

    I’ve loved the autumn since boyhood, soaking conkers in vinegar to make them extra-hard for those highly competitive bouts in the playground, though “Beech-Nut” was rarely the champ. Aye, mellow autumn, this season for reflection and deep sighs as we swish our boots through drifts of fallen leaf. Our British autumn is an exceptionally colourful one this year and the golden glow infuses my heart.

    Yours is a poem to read and read again, one to treasure.

    My very best,


    • Big smile, here, about the conkers…though that was more for my brothers than for me. We have had our usual glorious color here in New England though it’s beginning to fade, now. Soon we’ll be slogging through the white and drifting snow….though I am past doing that now, and will be watching it from indoors—the best way to appreciate its beauty when one can no longer throw snowballs and ski!

      Thank you so much for your kind and appreciative words, Paul.

  11. Ah! The cycle of life – forever moving, forever changing yet, in some ways, forever staying the same. “rubrics never read, sermons unsaid,” – magic to use these to re-enforce the preceding line – so clever with their meanings – wow! Everything in its place, naturally. Love it!

  12. Love this one Cynthia, such a great autumn poem with a difference! 🙂 Oh to have the life of a tree, that would be an experience. But for all their dying down and resurrecting they are somewhat disadvantaged in being rooted to the spot they grow and possibly in fear of humans deciding they must go for good.

    And what a lovely tree to be able to see through your window. My fantasy garden would contain cherry trees, copper beach, and maple, so I could have wild bursts of colour through the seasons. 🙂

    • That is a good insight, Suzy. We might envy some things about trees, but I don’t think most of us would wanted to be permanently stuck in one place! This is one of those poems where the first line was dancing in my head and I had to find a dancing form to go with it…thus the rondeau! And I do like your fantasy garden very much. Here in Maine the color in winter would be hard to come by, but there would be evergreens glistening with snow. Thanks for reading and for your lovely comment.

  13. Our unexpected trip back East last weekend gave us the chance to take in the Maple Yellow, Maple Red vision that you so elegantly write about. The brilliance of the colorful leaves against the harsh human reality of death as we are experiencing today is quite the juxtaposition of the situation – ying and yang of nature, of which I do appreciate no matter how difficult. Wonderful Cynthia ~

    • I’m glad you got to do some leaf-peeping, even if it may not have been under planned or felicitous circumstances. It certainly is a yin-yang feeling at this time of year. Now we’re beginning to fade into the gray and brown season….there will be something more pleasant, I guess, about the snow when it comes, and all the Christmas lights glistening. Looking forward to your snow paintings…..I always giggle when I think of you painting those wonderful scenes as you do in Texas!

      • Got to bring a little New England into this State! It’s funny to see the Christmas season here, as people get their trees (sometimes with shorts on) and start putting out decorations in spite of the warm environment.

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