Matthew Babcock

Cherry Valley by Jeremiah Gilbert

November Étude

                    November is a still more serious month.—Austen

                    It is also November . The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner, and                             Gibraltar lights make the village foreign. November always seemed to me the                                  Norway of the year.—Dickinson

                   November, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.—Ambrose Bierce

Sunken pumpkins hunker
on the doorsteps of Harvard Avenue,
scowls slumped and hollow.
All human faces slacken
under cowls of evanescent dusk.
Who wanders here on Sunday
crosses two patchwork vacant lots
to embark and erase,
not to follow or analyze
but for space for the sake of space.

Scorched sluices of gutters
rummage maple leaf shards,
bland and brackish, from the cryptic air.

Olive green garbage cans disgorge
white plastic bags. A young boy
on a splintering porch
hunches in a magenta parka
launches through smoky fragrance
the elliptical name of his vagrant pooch.
A gray trace of stillness lags.

Crabapples shrivel like black satchels.
Cornhusks and mismatched cans of thinner
flank rusted campers, Jayco and Sportsmaster II.
Behind the Muir place, a rowboat hitch
winters under tarpaulin blue.

What about straying makes
the return a feast? Nigerian vendors
jangled urgent tunes from Eiffel Tower keychains
outside Versailles the summer
our daughter bloomed like a heavy moon
over the ungroomed scrub acre
of your womb. Lame souvenir seagulls
ratcheting on double-A batteries
flapped through tarnished sky
over the sun-spangled statue of a king.

A reminder of us in our seasons:
the mechanical circles, hope fluttering aloft
or the eleventh time in eleven months,
sending each other down
the bosky backstreets of the next opéra bouffe,
all monuments for sale on a ring,

in the eleventh hour soaring back
on one toy wing.

Matthew James Babcock is the author of Points of Reference (Folded Word) and Strange Terrain (Mad Hat Press), which won the AML Poetry Award. Other awards include the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg, Juxtaprose, and Lucidity Magazine Poetry Awards. His nonfiction collection, Heterodoxologies, is available from Educe Press. His fiction collection, Four Tales of Troubled Love (Harvard Square Editions), won the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Award. His follow-up fiction collection, Future Perfect, a finalist for the BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize, is forthcoming from Engine Books.

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