October 2020

The Layers, by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides,
from which I struggle not to stray.

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

This is an autumn poem, about loss and regret. It is a poem about courage and hope, claiming the meaning and values we find at life’s core: “some principle of being from which I struggle not to stray.” It is a poem urging us to live where there is possibility: “I am not done with my changes.” For those who love autumn, October is the glory month, and the month of change. The weather daemons may send sultry afternoons or – as happened one Halloween weekend a decade ago – a freak snowstorm. The trees will sing out color and the sky will be clear. Let’s live in the beauty and poignancy of October. Let’s continue to give each other hope and encouragement. Let’s continue to work in whatever ways we can as we look toward the first Tuesday in November with our hearts in our throats. I am grateful and blessed to be in this work and season with all of you.Janets signature