California Fall

Already late October and where did September go?

In the garden crocuses push up through the leaf fall.

Everything’s confused here. It’s California,

caught in weird, autumnal thrall.


California, like a page thumbed open,

exposed to weathers, like a recitation

of forgetfulness, flighty liturgy,

the unearthly gaining shape as the whole

continent tips westward into the sea.


Here in the low Sierras, camellias mingle

with the flash and flame of migrant maples,

old icons planted by homesick pioneers, hungry for a different gold.

And the breeze that shifts out of the East

might as well bring snow as clouds

sink into the valley below.


What is it we gather to ourselves

while these things want to bloom even as the dying

begins, even as the season yearns for completion?

What is it unravels as the new ravelling starts?


There’s no summation in California.

We tremble at the tip, but never fall.

We linger too long and lose our scope,

and drift into the endless sea, headlong

into the West.


by Maxima Kahn, first published in Hardpan


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