Neither Before Nor After

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew
~W.S. Merwin “To the Light of September”

The light of September is a filtered, more gentle illumination than we have experienced for the past several months of high summer glare.

Now the light is lambent: a soft radiance that simply glows at certain times of the day when the angle of the sun is just right, and the clouds are in position to soften and cushion the luminence.

It is also liminal: it is neither before or after, on the threshold between seasons when there is both promise and caution in the air.

Sometimes I think I can breathe in light like this, if not through my lungs, then through my eyes. It is a temptation to bottle it up with a stopper somehow, stow it away hidden in a back cupboard. Then I can bring it out, pour a bit into a glass on the darkest days and imbibe.

But for now, I fill myself full to the brim. And my only means of preservation is with a camera and a few words.

So I share it now with all of you to tuck away for a future day when you too are hungry for lambent light. Just check out “September.”

More photos and words of light from Barnstorming available to order here:

4 thoughts on “Neither Before Nor After

  1. Growing up in New Jersey, our winters were pretty harsh. In the midst of that, I would open a bottle of suntan lotion I kept in my dresser drawer, ready for beach weather. That coconutty fragrance transported me to summer every time. I shall do this with your September. Thank you, Emily.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. She was a department store owner’s daughter from Wilkes-Barre, PA, and he was a minister’s son from Scranton who later became a very famous poet. They went to school together at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA, and together they published the school’s weekly journal, the “Opinator.” She was the editor.
    Merwin went on to much greater glory in the literary field and is arguably the school’s best-known graduate. She- Mary- or “Aunt Mae Mae” as we called her, married a young Swarthmore Physics prof, Paul Mangelsdorf, and reared a fine family of four. She worked at the Swarthmore library. Together, she and her husband revised the Quaker Hymnal. Her life was modest but very productive. Merwin’s career was spectacular and productive as well.

    Mae-Mae was known for her modesty and wry sense of humor. I once asked her what it was like being Merwin’s boss. She replied with a laugh, “I did all the work and he got all the credit.” Maybe so, maybe so…it’s all in the lambent light of September, often the best month of the year.

    Liked by 2 people

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