the stealing of light flees south leaving behind
the unforeseen faces of children at play;
bring out the play—they are hardened by summer—
soft and sweet with corn and butter—lean and strong
with endless running. Fall is the time of prowess,
the time of singing, let them sing the time of undoing.

It is still early, the leaves are not cut with fire.
The man before me has something to teach me
he is afraid of death, the death of his wife, he is looking
where I fear to go. Nature remembers this. That is why I
talk to him. He reaches out. Fall is the time of bridges.

I speak to him. I try to comfort him without fear, to pray
for him without wondering if some god, any god, could exult
in these moments of weakness, wonder if we are just
the simple relation that makes cruder, eternal beings feel superior.

We need to make moments that will become memories of grace. I pray
he be given strength when it is called for, let him help her
surrender if she must, fight to remember that she still lives. The children
speed around us on tricycles. The wind whips leaves in pools only I

will remember as I write, this moment. As I write I look at the future.
The woods are on fire with the quick and the dying. Fall is the finish,
the start. A squirrel picking through the first ground cover before winter. The leaf falling
to protect the roots. I am the nut that waits patiently to feed, or sprout and flower
again. I am the frozen bird that no longer looks through its eye.

The children are shouting about their game.
The sky glows at the end of day. He still
cannot leave. He is waiting for the children
to dismiss him; it’s nothing to them. They
are intent on filling last moments with noise and laughter.

I have to tell them to say something, “Tell her you love her,
you hope she gets better, it may be your last chance to let her know,”
they can’t understand, they’re too excited about their game. The light is fading,
the game is ending, there is laughter, there is grief.