Selected by Merna Ann Hecht
These poems are in celebration of autumn as a time of harvest and a time when a rich tapestry of color is paraded for us by the natural world. Merna Ann Hecht has contributed two poems and two favorites, one by Canadian poet Lorna Crozier and one by Jane Hirschfield. Merna is a long-time Vashon resident, a teaching artist for poetry, a storyteller, a poet, and a social justice advocate who has worked extensively with refugee and immigrant youth. She was Vashon’s Poet Laureate from 2017-19 and has loved poetry since age seven!
Why I Love Pumpkins
Because they roll into town on the backs of trucks
with a loud orange
tomatoes, apples and melons
moving away from the market stalls
to make way for their huge invasion.
Because the grocers pile them row on row
with the same skill that builds stone fences.
Because they are more accurate than calendars or clocks.
Because of the grin some mother or father
carves for a child. The nose,
the triangular eyes that look at you
as if they know your face.
Because a candle flickers inside their head
striking its paper matches and blowing them out.
Because they are the last
of autumn’s light, the last to ripen,
an explosion, a contradiction of
colour in the colourless fields.
Because they are not a vegetable
for the delicate, the weak-hearted.
When you knock on their doors, someone
might answer, beckon you inside.
Because they are moons defeated by gravity,
hugging the earth in their orbits, as we do,
dust to dust. Because in soups and pies
and thick slices of pumpkin bread
we taste what they know of time.
Because of the small distances
they travel on their trailing vines.
Because they float just above the earth
like lighted buoys marking the safest entrance
to the harbour.
Because the first snow falls
into the huge silence
the pumpkins leave
in the fields.
By Lorna Crozier
(Excerpted from a longer poem. Used with permission.)
Lorna Crozier is a well known, award-winning Canadian poet. She lives in Victoria. I have followed her unique, often whimsical poetry for years. I love her playful, repetitive “pumpkin” poem and hope others see it as an invitation to create their own love poems for autumn or harvest time. Examples might be, “Why l love Maple Trees,” or, Why I love the Harvest Moon,” etc. Crozier is a widely-known award winning poet who has published numerous poetry collections.
Farmers Market at the Autumn Equinox
Even here, with yellow-leafed wind,
and baskets heaped with saucers of squash,
lipstick and gypsy peppers,
we know the news of the day,
wars against children,
tax cuts for the rich,
it doesn’t stop,
but this morning
if I must think of what’s gone bad,
let it be a bruised eggplant,
an apple with a worm,
let me hear the tambourine
of the moon
as it lights the way for the corn
to rise up,
slight breeze through my basket’s weave fills
with memories, travels in me
as if from the thin roots of carrots
to the leafy tops,
and I am with my grandfather
as he listens to the small song
of a seed before planting it,
kneeling to earth
he asks the seed, how it wants to flower.
Tonight, I will dream of him
dream he has cupped his hands
around mine, and between us we hold
a luminous sliver of prayer
for what the world could still become.
By Merna Ann Hecht
This poem is in honor of my grandfather David Hecht, a master gardener, a storyteller, a lover of poetry and a banjo/mandolin player who loved life and lived to be 98! He is a huge influence on my life-long love of language, poetry, story, song and gardening.
How sad they are,
the promises we never return to.
They stay in our mouths,
roughen the tongue, lead lives of their own.
Houses built and unwittingly lived in;
a succession of milk bottles brought to the door
every morning and taken inside.
And which piece is real?
The music in the composer’s ear
or the lapsed one the orchestra plays?
The world is a blurred vision of itself—
marred, lovely and flawed.
It is enough.
By Jane Hirshfield
“Autumn Quince” from Of Gravity and Angels, published by Wesleyan University Press and used by permission.
Jane Hirshfield is well known for many reasons and likely a name that is recognized on Vashon by poets and poetry lovers. She is widely read and she is a Buddhist, a peace activist, an environmentalist and has written several stunningly perceptive prose books about poetry, worth reading each one. Having won many awards, her poems are deceptively simple and within them there is much mystery to be found. She always leaves space for reflection and meditative thought.
A Poem To Loved Ones About Preserving Fruit
Have you ever woken up
on a dark winter morning
suffering from the sun’s neglect,
wishing for a ripe plum,
as you felt your empty mouth
curve purple and sweet
around the memory
of sticky sun?
Late last summer and into fall
I knew I was held
in fortune’s unpredictable embrace
as I gathered baskets
of wind fallen plums,
during a string of September’s
Light on my feet
light-headed with the bounty
of gathering bushels of dusk-
blue plums, until they filled
my coffers and kettles.
I knew as I washed glass jars,
scalded rings and lids,
that I was star-laced,
sun-blessed and moon-crossed,
to find myself in the stirred up kitchen
and crush, mash, mix, boil,
sweat, sweeten, stoop down,
swoop up, scoop, funnel
and strain in
a bewitchery of preserving
what is given.
By Merna Ann Hecht