Autumn 5:32 PM
At 5:01 PM in the labyrinth
of rocks and ornamental grasses
that we built to place an endless
journey in our small front yard
I peel a crumbling brown leaf
off of a staunch green blade.
Fall razes everything to the ground
and I am hallowed by ash.
In the street a teenage girl
is taking her younger sister
for a walk. As they pass, hand
in hand, the older one describes
all things along the way. There are
yellow leaves on the gingko tree.
Yellow looks like sunlight feels.
Puddles hold pieces of the sky –
it’s like lost puzzle pieces, but
the sky is missing nothing! To find
the sky reach high above your head.
Keep reaching – there it is! Gingko
leaves are shaped like fans –
she draws a delta on her sister’s
palm. Her sister has been blind
since birth, so all words that describe
colors, shapes, lights, shadows
are to her small fish that swim
in the dark, rubbing up against her,
enticing or sharp, wanton, warm,
terrifying or consoling.
Our small nervous dog barks
at the timpani of raindrops
as though so many threatening
feet are prowling our yard,
so many distrustful hands
are knocking on our doors,
so many thieving fingers
are prying at our windows.
But when I open the door to show
him – just the rain! – he quiets
down, wild eyes darting.
I’m telling you this because
it’s 5:32 PM now. Summer’s
done. How will we ever
defend against so many ghosts?
How will we ever welcome
so many unseen guests?
by Peter Herring
Editor’s Note: Ghosts and discovery walk together through this poem, reminding us that the unknown is only fearsome until it’s named.