This is a revised version of New Season, which I wrote on October 29th, 2006, a few months into a two-year stay at my parents' house in Berkeley, California. That long visit was initiated by a heart attack (followed, during stent installation, by heart failure) that my mother had suffered, on August 26th of that year.
Almost two years after that writing, Joe's Demise appeared, on October 5th, 2008 -- out of nowhere, so it seemed. This happened soon after my return to Brooklyn, at the end of August of that year.
Recently, on reading both poems again, I noticed that a section of the earlier poemcontained a premonition of what is perhaps portrayed in the later one, Joe's Demise. So, after revising New Season, I am presenting it below.
The air has cooled, but still the ardent sun
Retains his strength, as leaves of color fall.
Now comes November... Yet, along this coast,
It is as if we're waiting still for May...
The maples – they are mottled, green and red...
And lighter, warmer shades can now be seen,
Amongst the greens, on coastal slopes and hills.
We know, beyond those hills, and east to the sea,
For a full three thousand miles, the trees stand bare,
Except for dark and stolid evergreens...
But here, the maples, oaks, the wine-leaved plums
And all their broad-leaved kin still wear the clothes
Of early fall, which lasts here into spring...
What a paradise was this, that Nature wrought,
Until we came and drove our freeways through!
Now shopping malls deface the sun-washed coast,
And rushing cars disturb the sleeping hills.
And yet, the conifers rise up to a hilltop ridge,
And little birds are perched on cables strung
Between the poles that stand as straight and tall
As when they slowly grew in forests deep...
And high upon those hills, you still might find,
Beside a stream, a mountain lion's print –
And quickly glance about and hurry down
Before the night descends on fragrant pines.
It is as if the works of men are but
Another shadow that is speeding through,
One more among the countless ones that climb
These coastal hills as clouds go racing by.
All this shall pass, like a storm that lays about
And then is gone. So newborn grass will spring
From asphalt cracks, and rust will eat at bridges...
And trees will conquer buildings, as they've done
Since Olmecs, Mayas, Incas, Aztecs raised
Their monuments and left, as Khmers had built
In forests far across the globe, reclaimed
By plants, and all the life that they sustain...
But wait – perhaps, this time, it won't be so,
And things will take, instead, a turn that is
Quite different – for we have stressed this whole,
Of earth and sea and air, beyond its strength...
That whole may not recover. Life, its part,
May never be the same upon this globe...
And if we do not curb those weapons dread
That we are hoarding, life may vanish from
This blue-green planet – till it starts again
From a seed arrived from a distant orb that's sent
Ejecta forth to find a home and spread...
All this goes through the mind, on a tranquil day,
When all seems changeless, still, amidst the flow...
Perhaps we need these little respites from
The rush of seasons – both of Earth and Man.
We then can note the changes that portend
Of seasons yet to come, whose depth and length
Exceed, by far, the turns of the yearly round.
October ends, and yet, in paradise,
The sun is warm, and hummingbirds in flight
Are finding time to pause and drink their fill.
So autumn here begins, and we have time
To think these thoughts of past and future, while
We savor this – the present's timelessness.
Babui Jana (Arjun Janah) 2006 October 29th, Sun. Berkeley, California
revised, 2013 October 23rd, Wed. Brooklyn, New York