Autumn Ghosts

A Poem

In his last year my father

seemed to fade right into autumn

When the dying leaves began to call attention

to threatened life, and the squirrels and birds

Rushed to lay on fat against the bitter chill

of winter’s final harvest.

And through those cooling nights, the old man,

seeking comfort where he could,

Drew about himself his most intimate things:

an old frayed coat,

His own few lines of verse

and his favorite ghosts.

He knew his body was failing

so he prayed for a soul—

Or for the living to listen—

or for any way

That he could give his thoughts immortality

so that they, at least, might be part of tomorrow…

And all the while his friends—

reduced from touch to memories—

Were murmuring in his head—

were softly calling to him in the chilling winds.

His chores, once his pride and vanity,

now seemed somehow a burden,

Unnecessary—an intrusion upon his reveries

in this his time of change.

His thoughts scattered between the yesterdays

that he knew and loved, and the warning

Implicit in the approaching winter snow…

and today had lost his care.

Blood red symphonies,

which had once soared his hopes,

Now echoed promises never fulfilled…

so he listened instead to those muted, pastel tunes

That were each bound

to real  faces and places and scenes—

Though the memories were now

ragged and jumbled and blurred…

And he cried

when those simple notes resurrected his life.

But, more often than not, he would just sit in silence…

listening.

He would join in meals, only to forsake the meal at hand

for some remembered feast

Where friendly laughter still crackled in his brain

and caused a smile inappropriate to the moment.

The old man’s gone again,

they’d say.

But he hadn’t just gone

rather he had been stolen away by ghosts

To sit again at yesterday’s table

secure from ridicule….

And best of all,

when the old man would close his eyes

Against the world around him,

he ceased to be that confused old fool

Who embarrassed just by being;

instead, he and the ghosts were back in their prime

Reliving those certain few moments

that never seemed to fade with time.

Yes, it is autumn

and my time has come to huddle with my ghosts

Against the chill

and to contemplate on memories

Too dear to share

with any but those who were with me then…

And to listen to their voices

rising in the chilling winds.

And winter, my winter,

your snow will soon be falling.

A Hill resident, the author believes that the appreciation of art should not be influenced by the vagaries or prejudices of biography.