Autumn Ambivalence by Karen Kelsay

 

Autumn Ambivalence
Karen Davies

We sit near the stream edge, under the pine’s
brittle fingers. Our collective breath
drapes between low branches

like a foggy sheet across autumn’s arms.
You spot a black bear in the distance;
I marvel how a sky so blue

can be so cold. Daylight has become
brief, the valley blurred into a ribbon
of frayed leaves. At dusk I see

Denali’s shadow from my balcony,
moose eat fuchsias by the backyard deck.
Stalks of rhubarb bend

and twist to earth, breathing
a chilly sigh. No matter how many
winters I greet, this place

will always seem foreign to me.
Everything lies exposed, the beauty
is too vast. God is too near.

 


Review by Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas


We sit near the stream edge, under the pine’s
brittle fingers. Our collective breath
drapes between low branches

This appears as a quiet, unassuming poem. The speaker has carefully created a visual ambiance of beauty with a selection of airy words that ballet about the page softly, in a poetic dance. We are given a dreamlike landscape which is lovely and calm, a tranquil scene, yet so vividly expressed, it feels tangible. What begins so gracefully on the page leads us lightly through pines and low branches as autumn removes its traces of summer and prepares us for the eventuality of winter. The word “autumn” feels specifically chosen: the perfect word as it can be seen as the speaker viewing life with seasons depicting the aging process or the transformation from one period of life to another. Winter closes in a little more with each stanza.

like a foggy sheet across autumn’s arms.
You spot a black bear in the distance;
I marvel how a sky so blue

The becalming nature of this poem is equally ominous as daylight becomes briefer, with shadows of mountains menacing overhead. There is a burst of color from moose nibbling on fuchsias as rhubarb bow to earth but with the mention of a chilly sigh the tone heads further into intimations of unpleasantness, of a winter that will be too long. This tiptoeing elegance builds to a formidable last statement: “God is too near.” This shift, almost volta-like, brings the writing to a superb climax. All that preceded, leading us here, to this one declaration. It’s as though we feel some fantastic trepidation before us.


Everything lies exposed, the beauty
is too vast. God is too near.

Reviewing this poem, I would say there is a epistemological contradiction taking place within the speaker’s feelings towards the supernatural world and the world she lives in. It is this dichotomy and vulnerability that makes this poem profound; the slow creep that begins and brings us nearer to the realm of the unknown and the honest fear of what’s to come.

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