Sunday, November 13, 2016

Poetry Sunday: The Consent

Howard Nemerov writes in his poem "The Consent" of a phenomenon that I, too, have observed: the sudden overnight drop of leaves from a tree. One day the redbud tree is still full of leaves; the next day they are all on the ground - or, more likely, floating in my goldfish pond waiting for me to net them out.

How does this happen? What is the secret signal they hear that tells them all to drop? And if this happens to leaves, can it happen to us, too?

The Consent

by Howard Nemerov

Late in November, on a single night
Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees
That stand along the walk drop all their leaves
In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind
But as though to time alone: the golden and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light. 

What signal from the stars? what senses took it in?
What in those wooden motives so decided
To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,
Rebellion or surrender? and if this
Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?
What use to learn the lessons taught by time.
If a star at any time may tell us: Now.


6 comments:

  1. Gosh, I like this:
    "What use to learn the lessons taught by time.
    If a star at any time may tell us: Now."

    Not only it happens when the leaves fall, it also happens when the trees bloom in spring. One morning, unexpectedly, all trees are covered with leaves and flowers; it's magical! That's what I think of the spring: it's magical.

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    1. Spring and fall are the seasons of change. And you're right - that change does seem magical.

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  2. What a beautiful poem, and so true. The ginkgos are so beautiful in the fall, and one day it is gone. And the redbud in my yard - it dropped its leaves yesterday, just like that.

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    1. So far my redbud is still hanging on to its leaves, but I know that one morning soon I will walk outside and see its bare branches and all the leaves on the ground - or in my pond.

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  3. You said "And if this happens to leaves, can it happen to us, too?" I got a chill.

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    1. It is a bit chilling to think that there might be some secret signal that will tell us when to drop.

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