I have become a most fearsome procrastinator: a major task that I must complete has gotten the back burner again and again, for ages, and rather than start it this morning, I read Archie Ammons's first book, Ommateum (originally published 1955; rereleased by Norton this month), aloud to myself. I feel good that my procrastinatory techniques are literary and all, but honestly.
Today warm glory has given way to an austere majesty of wind, of restless weather roaming migratorily, of a season coming steadily, unstoppably into its own darker incarnation. Today what was blue is layered in whites and greys innumerable; what was gold is stripping back to skeletal black; what was air is a space of swift turning. I dodged whirling leaves the whole way to the officehouse. Reddened beech, gilding maple, rusty oak. The last of green, on the silver maples and the lingering gingko. Huddled dove in a branch's crook. The squirrels grow more frantic; they palm the bared tree. I eye the light and the clock and think of how things will be a week from now, when the sky will be darkening by 4 p.m.
In the sky, a hawk moving motionlessly, afloat, adip. Yesterday, fifteen hawks circling a small woods on the sunny drive home. The hang, the uplift, the suspension before the killing dive. Today the vultures might show up on the chimney next door; the day feels that way, a bit. And also a bit surreal, especially with the swift turn of the weather: the return visit and swift flight of the sun, the equivocal building toward precipitation, or simply toward threat, the cold, the promise of snow tomorrow. I slept through the snow two weeks ago, woke to wetted ground, chilled air, e-mailed reports blending excitement and incredulity. The theatricality of seasons: that's what we're watching, all over again. I recognize it with a bottle of pop and a roll of chocolate and an admission that if I only do the thing I must do, do it swiftly and well, I might earn an evening of preparing for the burrowing the nearing winter will leave me wanting.
Yesterday, a woman walked up to my friend and said, "I'm your shepherdess." And what is the word for the way we responded? I marveled, eyes opened a little wider. He, to whom she was introducing herself (and to whom, it turns out, she has sold lamb), maintained due gravity. But: a declaration for the ages.
(A postscript--always a postscript: two pieces from Ommateum are the featured poems on Poetry Daily today--but not the section from which I've taken today's title.)