It’s been a while since I’ve written on this site, and the Upstate Autumn has emboldened me to start posting some of my poetry. Most know me as a children’s poet, since I have a children’s book series, Itty & Bitty: Two Miniature Horses, and I am a contributing writer for the Highlights for Children magazines, Hello, and High Five. However, I have drawers of other poems that I’m going to finally bring out into the light.
I grew up in Upstate New York, in a town outside of Utica. I never realized how the land had become a part of me until I moved to Texas in the ’80s, and experienced a vastly different landscape. My husband and I searched to find a home in a setting that somewhat approximated our former home, and settled into a rural area outside Dallas, into a farmhouse with some acreage, trees (post oaks–what were those?), a pond, and a grassy pasture. I learned to appreciate the scrubby look of the land, and the tough trees that could weather 110 degree summer days for months on end, but my heart was always back in N.Y.
It helped that my sons thought of Texas as home, since they were ages 1 and 3 when we moved for my husband’s career, but it never felt quite like home for me. I made wonderful friends, had a menagerie of cats, dogs, and horses–a childhood dream, but still, I missed the topography of N.Y’s rolling hills, lush fields, rivers and streams. And perhaps the hardest thing to adjust to was the lack of 4 distinct seasons. I remember in my first year on the farm, waiting for the temperatures to drop in September, then October and for the rain to come. But at Thanksgiving, we were still in tee shirts, and the kids were playing ball out in the dusty pastures.
A return to Upstate N. Y. in 2010 to be near family reminded me of all I had missed. And my first Autumn was full of joy–the smells of wood burning stoves, rain soaked soil, and the sight of the leaves changing, heralding the coming of winter.
Out came my pen, and this was the result:
The red leaves always catch my eye.
Like bright red lipstick in a crowd
They shout out,
Draw attention to themselves.
Even once they’ve fallen
Face down on the sidewalk,
They pull me down to pick them up,
Turn them over in my hands,
Examine stem, veins, striations, edges.
And so many reds–
ruby wet kisses
scarlet flash of a Cardinal’s wing
the matador’s taunting cape
the Pope’s cope
a fluttering Valentine
People drive long distances to see these
In their glory, in Autumn,
But this year’s warm days and warm nights
Have left colors muted–too much burgundy
Leaf-peekers are disappointed.
As if this were a burlesque, for our benefit–
Some performances good,
Others not worth the price of admission.
But having been away from this for 26 years,
In a land of no seasons,
Where September’s best red is poison sumac,
And brown is dirt and dust,
I marvel at the mystery of
This bloodletting of the trees.
And with books at the ready to explain all the reasons–
I prefer to wonder…
Who or what chooses which leaves turn to red,
Which to rust?