The old man said you feel the autumn poem
in your heart for a long time, and then one day,
like a day in October, when the leaves fall
scissored by a wind from the north, you let
the letters and the words fall upon a page.
For those who live among the palms or have
a glass and steal house in lands of ice, it is a gift
to be imagined, this seasonal change, but here,
along the banks of the rain-high Missouri
and into the roll of the Loess Hills, the eye sees
a palette of trees: brown, gold, amber, and red.
The old man said we have been here before,
this is a change the buffalo and deer once saw
across the prairie grass, or in a poplar grove.
It is the blush we see upon the face of a young
wife heavy now with child, or still the blush of
death in one who passes from a life working
with their hands, it’s the beauty Athenians knew
transformed from adolescent limbs; the beauty
of hammered gold that gravity turns into a kiss.
And the old man sighed after he thought
about the judgment of philosophers when
they said this world is but a copy of an ideal
place that falls into our cloud of life, a pale
copy of glory that lies as an ideal beyond.
The tug you feel within your heart is just a tug
that pulls you up into the world to come
as leaves fall down like paper money at a Taoist
funeral—there is no gold or yellow pulled from
cadmium, it’s just a memory of where you were.
Who is that beside you in the grave, a lover you
betrayed or one who betrayed you? It’s all a part
of glory that falls away, the way the maples, elms
and oaks are turning naked now and falling at
our feet so that we see beyond the bones of love.
Robert Klein Engler lives in Omaha, Nebraska and sometimes New Orleans. Many of Robert’s poems, stories, paintings and photographs are set in the Crescent City. His long poem, The Accomplishment of Metaphor and the Necessity of Suffering, set partially in New Orleans, is published by Headwaters Press, Medusa, New York, 2004. He has received an Illinois Arts Council award for his “Three Poems for Kabbalah.”