“Colors are the deeds and sufferings of light.”

It has been said the weather is bright blue
this time of year.  A tinge of cobalt cools
the contours, copper trembles, sounding true.
Red and golden maple leaves, the motley fools,
die dancing on a breeze of nevermore.
Those who must learn go back to schools.

The year was started long before
this current, nearer to the final, page
of curling calendar behind the closet door;
yet blood, air, the purple-kissed greengage
belie that paper rubric and bestir unnerving
promise in what’s more than come of age.

Cliché favors youth, the tight uncurving
blade of spring, bronze beauty at the beach,
the summer’s salad days all undeserving.
And youth favors cliché, believing each
grey hint of winter is a closing down,
smug in its grasp of things beyond its reach.

We’ve been there.  Now we’re here, my frown,
searching a spattered mirror for small clues
to an unsettling ripening.  We grope for nouns
to name it—for the way so many hues
exquisitely become a potent reticence of brown.

76 responses »

  1. I read this poem several times last Autumn and pondered……… it still causes me to ponder. Though, with this current spring season upon me, I feel a much weakened rising of sap despite the years 🙂 I hope your days of golden browns are still warm and pleasant and you are content? I have been thinking of you!

    • It is still a wonderment to me, Pauline, though I have been blogging for some time now, how close I feel to friends on the other side of the earth, and how the mind still boggles as I post a poem about autumn and know they will read it just as spring is blooming for them. The weather is still quite wonderful here; the foliage along the mountains has not reached its full glory yet but I anticipate it in the knowledge that it always brings me a bittersweet joy.

      As far as being content goes…..whenever I think I am finally content— wouldn’t you know— I am suddenly not content anymore! Go figure. I think of you, too, and how you are now in your own favorite (opposite) season, where I imagine you’re looking forward to some gardening, some drawing and painting, some craft, some joy of Siddy and Orlando….and some contentment? xo

      • I think that’s how it goes, the finding and losing – but it gets easier to find again with practise – I’ve found 🙂 I’m off to see the homeopath today – a feeling a bit like being off to see the wizard – to see if we can find out the cause of this wonky thyroid my GP thinks can be fixed by throwing more pills at. I’m looking forward to finding sustained energy again 🙂 In the meantime I’m making decorative tapes and papers and having a most enjoyable time ❤

        • I will keep a good thought, Pauline, for that visit with the homeopath. I am really not a fan of throwing commercially synthetic chemicals at health problems, if it’s at all possible to get well in a more natural way. Sometimes I think they think we are like antique cars that can be fixed part by part with little consideration for the whole organic human system. There’s no such thing as a “side effect,” in my book, there are only effects.

          Making deco tapes sounds like good therapy….how I love working with paper and all of its possibilities!

          I hope you will soon be feeling full of piss and vinegar.

          • We think alike about the medical system. I’ve recently been listening to a guy from California, a chiropractor called John Bergman, who has a You Tube channel full of interesting thoughts and information – he’s quite fun to tune into. This is a new woman I’m visiting as my previous homeopath retired several years ago and I’ve been going it alone ever since – I’ve got everything crossed she is as good as she sounds. Isn’t paper work fun – give me my paper, tub of implements and whole evenings disappear in a flash. I should maybe take some photos and stick a post up ………..

  2. Probably your (one of your) greatest poem(s) and the title of course to your published poetry. Brown has always been my favourite colour – even in youth – possibly because it matched the bronze beauty at the beach! But always the colour of earth… The wonder of this poem is that it asks (demands) we take winter, and all the seasons, as part of the wonder of life. It’s a celebration! An adventure! What an adventure!

    It’s funny being upside down here. I looked down the street today and all the trees (called kowhais) along the streets are in flower – and they’re golden flowers. It looks like northern Fall. No pinks. No whites. Mother Earth is old enough (a little like ourselves) to know that golds and browns and sombre things belong everywhere, and are things of wondrous rejoicing.

    What an adventure!

    • Fancy that…I have always also loved the color brown. The thing is, brown is almost not a set hue of the spectrum as much as it can include all of the colors together. I remember how amazed I was once, after a whole day of watercolour painting, when I looked at my mixing palette and realized how many shades of brown (and grey) could be created with all the other colors as they began to flow, one into the other.

      I love what you say about this poem, Bruce. Do you know, I never think of my friends in the southern hemisphere as being upside down, or as ourselves in the north as being downside up. We’re all just constantly going round and round…blue skies, pink sunsets, springing, falling, gold and brown, and you’re so right: what an adventure!

  3. Loving the thoughts that meander through my mind as I read your words. How wonderful to make one realize that we are here for just a wink compared to Mother Nature who is endless and timeless.
    I am the brown leaf blowing in the cool breeze. Waiting for winter to cover me forever more.
    Beautifully done. Thank you.

  4. Here on vacation in Croatia the summer is turning cooler but it’s not Autumn yet. Your rich lines anticipate Fall for me, Cynthia – but I’m pretty wide awake to allusions to the Autumn of my own life!

    • My peripatetic poet friend….so now you’re in Croatia, probably gazing at some lovely Adriatic scene, sipping some interesting libation, still in summer mode… Not a bad place to be spending one’s autumn…internally or externally. (I have many countries represented in my stats, but this is the first time for Croatia!) Enjoy!

  5. Being oblivious to my surroundings, I hardly take note of the seasons, of the russets of autumn, of the toe-numbing cold of winter, of spring’s cruelty, of the clarity of a mid-summer sky, and I thank our four and a half billion year old planet (give or take a few performances of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg ) for having the foresight to eventually make a claim on poetry and have pensive men with griseous beards and smart women dressed in long-sleeved dresses, holding parasols of pink faille, dictate from the heart what ails us.

    This is what one thinks of, at a certain age, because awe is a process which needs to be discovered.

    (And page 2 from that certain black as Erebus book, I confess, has long been one of my favorites)

    • It has taken me some time to quell the incredulous giggling occasioned by your contention that you are oblivious to your surroundings. It is my belief that the situation is quite to the contrary. (And you give yourself away with that first paragraph above.)

      Then I got side-tracked by your mention of Die Meistersinger, an operatic comedy which I have loved since I was thirteen years old and owned my own 33and1/3 vinyl disk of its highlights. (I learned subsequently, of course, that I would probably not have the sitzfleisch to last through the 4+ hours of a live performance.)

      I am so glad you said “Erebus,” and not the currently more popular but less exact “Black Hole.” (Deity remains ever so much more poetic than mathematics.) Naturally Erebus, having been born of Chaos, was a prime consultant of mine in the tedious process of dealing with my book’s cover designer.

      “Awe is a process which needs to be discovered…” I think I will continue to think about that— as it is rich with wisdom— even as I know I will continue to be ever grateful for a dear and uniquely Prosperous friend.

      • As with Wagnerian operas, highlights are the best way to enjoy the Bible–that and a few garish pop-up boxes to explain paper thin terms such as ‘eyes of needles’ and what exactly camelids (and I am including vicuñas) have to do with it all. These are the two essential tools to have at one’s disposition.

        But it is art’s purpose to make sense out of chaos, and so you have sought good counsel.

        Yours in awesomeness,


  6. We only have to let us carry by the palette of various colors and among them the brown.
    It’s a music in minor brown and the rich rhymes are sounding very well .
    Are you an painter and a musician, Cynthia,?
    Love ❤

    • Well, Michel, I am an amateur painter, amateur musician; I draw, as a meditative practice, and paint in watercolor; I sing all the time, and I have been known to play the piano and guitar— all for my own enjoyment. I have found that each of the arts may open doors to all the others.

  7. Exquisite writing, Cynthia. And words I can relate to from the perspective of having lived a longish life (near 70 now) and what it’s like to look back: not just at our own youth, but on the youth of today who “favor the cliches”, who can’t imagine that those of a “certain age” can have any value, or anything to say at all. We were there. Now we’re here. How did “autumn” get here so fast? And how did it end up so beautiful after all, in spite of the not so pleasant things, in spite of our losses and our pain? It turns out we have plenty to say, and it’s more valuable and beautiful than ever – as are your poems!

    • It is all about perspective, isn’t it. We know what it is to be young…but the young do not really know what it is to be old. They have only clichés (and not always the best ones) to help them understand. But I like your notion that it has ended up “beautiful after all”…. and I agree. Maybe there should be–as there seems to have been in some earlier societies closer to nature— a teaching towards age, wisdom, maturity…. a way to once again give a real place to the elderly, an honorific place, something for everyone to look forward to (since almost everyone will be going there), even in the face of the inevitable end.

  8. I like this tale of life moving forward and on. It makes me reflect–not just at the lovely language, but at the passage of time and the ability to note beauty as it presents itself. Thank you, Cynthia. I’ve read this in your book, of course, but it’s always nice to have a poem you like pop up out of nowhere–or the author’s blog!

    • I do like that popping up, too. Sometimes I’ll be looking for something on the web and find myself side-tracked by a poem I have known before, but haven’t encountered in a long time, and it’s all good, all over again. Friends like you, who have bought my book, know this one of course. Some readers, though, are new and haven’t read it before. I always hope it withstands the reposting, even as I always hope that poetry doesn’t have a “sell by” date. What I cherish, and am most grateful for, is readers like you. Thank you, Lisa.

  9. It’s always struck me as odd that just as the year is winding down and for you the weather seems to tie in with that (“believing each/grey hint of winter is a closing down”), for students in the Northern Hemisphere, the year is just beginning. And then I realise that while for us the calendar and the school year coincide with beginnings and endings, the weather really does the opposite. Spring feels like a beginning and yet the year is ending soon. Time is such an odd thing.

    • Funny….I was just having a discussion on another blog about time…It is an odd thing, an invention of our own human minds to try and capture a certain regularity we see in the universe. But mostly it’s an abstraction, rather than anything more “real” than the figments of our own minds.
      It’s very practical, of course, for what needs to get done, and for stopping us from continually bumping into each other and missing any meeting points.

      When I first became more poignantly aware of the differences in seasons, north and south hemispheres,—and this was enhanced by blogging—I puzzled about this a lot. Nature and time are all mixed up with history, language, wars, immi-and emigrations, all the crazy things that humans tend to do and have done as they move about on the earth. Who really knows what begins and ends where…except in our own desires, imaginations, and conventional constructs?

      As I suggested to Bruce (above) we’re on a rolling ball….there’s no downunder or upover, really, just a ball, and like Ole’ Man River, it just keeps rolling along……

  10. Cynthia, you drowned me into the poem.

    You have captured the delusional verity and infinity of youth at the outset, picking up metaphors from nature’s cycles and rituals. The curling calendar behind the closet door is a portent of what is imminent. It is also a vantage point to look back and try to see ahead in hindsight how so many hues exquisitely become a potent reticence of brown.

    No, I cannot summarise this poem, its reach is too vast and transcendental. We are all but Nature’s toys but red and golden maple leaves would rather not believe it.

    • What Goethe said about colors could also be said about us, perhaps…that we are also the deeds and sufferings of light. You are right about such red and golden maple leaves as we may be…only we, unlike the leaves, rage and create whole worlds (and poems) against believing it.

  11. This is a poem that, each time I read it, seems to have new lines, each one speaking yet another recognisable truth. We are at exactly that time of year and of a certain age. I have iTunes on, if I am at my desk in the evening, set at random; among all the operatic arias and piano music are some old-fashioned birdsong recordings, Edith Piaf, a little twenties swing – and your voice reading your poems. It seems astonishing that I should know your voice so well. Now I must go and make the morning tea, return to bed and read for half an hour… there are luxuries in later life even if some many of them coalesce on brown.

    • I am delighted to hear of the good company I keep on your iTunes playlist. I hope you had a lovely luxurious morning tea-and-read. I am now enjoying your novel UNSEEN UNSUNG in my own luxurious morning sips these days. A delight at any age!

    • I can see the two of us, M-R, in some fluorescent ladies’ room, staring at a huge wall of mirror above a row of sinks, having a great time making faces at each other as we wash our hands. Then one of us remarks: “someone should really clean this mirror.” “Yes,” says the other, “someone should.” Then we both laugh, and leave the room. [Applause.]

  12. I enjoyed this a lot, Cynthia. Technically brilliant and emotionally resonant! A couple of the details I enjoyed in particular: the word “motley”, carrying as it does the visually appropriate resonance of a jester’s costume – I had never thought that about maple leaves before, but it’s just right. And those greengages “kissed with purple”. While the maples hog all the attention, you pick out a beautiful image for the observant eye.

    • I had never thought that about maple leaves before, either, until the moment it appeared in that line….maybe the limit created by the self-enforced need for a rhyme engendered it. That often happens, and is what I do like about using form—even traditional forms- in composition. I know it just stymies some folks but for others of us wordworkers I guess it can be a challenge to creativity.

      Thank you so much, Andy, for coming to read and comment, and especially for your kind words. As we all know, compliments never fail to warm the cockles.

      • You are welcome (and deserving) as ever, Cynthia. It is interesting that in your experience form doesn’t restrict creativity but challenges it… Edmund Burke said that difficulty was good for man – for poets too, one might add!

        • My experience does support what Burke says. Difficulty can be creative or destructive, I guess. I suppose the nature and extent of difficulty as well as a particular person’s reaction to it are important variables. Truisms come to mind, such as necessity”s being the mother of invention, and Nietzsche’s “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…..” Good food for thought here, Andy. Thanks again. ❤

  13. Dear Cynthia, first of all, I have thought of you a hundred times, Europe has shown me the most beautiful Hydrangeas!! And in Copenhagen I saw them growing in pots on small balconies. On to Finland today from St Petersburg where the Autumn colours were marvellous! And I thought to myself, I’ve had 2 Autumns this year and when I got Wi Fi on the coach, there’s your beautiful poem waiting for me! A delightful gift, thank you, thank you Cynthia, signing off from Helsinki

    • What a lovely image you paint here, Shubha… a hydrangea voyage! It sounds like you are having a fine tour, and this is a good time of year to do it, in the northern hemisphere. Such a feast! And when you return to Australia you will be able to enjoy all the beauties of Spring…until then, I hope you continue to make many beautiful memories to savor.

  14. There’s nothing I can say about this beautiful poem that hasn’t been better said in previous comments, except that perhaps that it takes someone approaching 80 (like me) to feel it fully. 🙂

    • I’ll be 73 in January. From all the youthful fun in your punning, the thoughtfulness and satire in the quotations you post, and the genuine sentiment detectable in comments on the recent occasion of your 48th wedding anniversary, I think I have figured out that the years are many, rich, and have not been wasted, in your case, mistermuse.
      As another blogger friend who describes herself as on the verge of never seeing the seventies again likes to say (and I’m sure you know she stole it from Bette Davis): old age is not for sissies! 🙂

  15. I haven’t visited your blog so long and found three excellent poems – such a treat. This poem is painted in my favorite colors, including the brown. Since I was young I always had at least one brown item in my wardrobe, and all my life I dreamed about a brown car. Looking back, I can tell that there is very little difference between my seventeens and my sixties if I don’t look in the mirror. All the same things are back – little responsibilities, big mouth… 😉 Thank you for your poetry! Hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy the colors of October.

    • Always when someone has asked me “what’s your favorite color?” I have not known what to answer, because there are ways in which I love them all…and yes, even brown. If you look at an artist’s color wheel you will not find brown as a distinct hue. But like you, and a few others (we are an elite club, I guess) I have always loved brown, especially in clothing. It might have something to do with what complements one’s hair color and complexion. In painting, many ordinary things we consider to be brown are often rendered in several other colors in order to appear brown. And you’re right…. without the mirrors we are as we ever were…the feelings do not age. Thanks for visiting today, Inese and for your usual kind and spirited comments.

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