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Autumn and I Can't Breathe


Too much increase and pressured air,
sugar maples and oaks choked up
with cereal reds and oranges,
last apples to market, persimmons ...
Two falls on two lakes. Flying over
Chicago's chunky silken skyline afloat
on Lake Michigan's slate prairie,
while over the Wannsee a harvest moon
lights my room, shrinks to a watery
seam as ducks and coots skid
like vaudevillians on deepening ice
to chase food no longer there.


Across Chicago's black horizon
Canada geese skid and bark,
grave clouds tamping their call.
There they go, Sarasota-bound,
homing closer in on the home
of John Ringling, O welcome me, too,
as you did those affluent Munchkins
who retired there. Thus the birds
come back in my thoughts like thoughts
though not as streaky, cranky, or fresh
as flocks we heard at Lake Champlain,
where we had that third autumn I forgot.


The softer, fooling fall we feel still lives,
because it's Indian summer, my friend,
and that overshadowed year, in canoes,
we chased their soundtrack nearly to
New York, the water stiffer as we rowed,
slowing us from finding a loud flock
we knew had to be closer when
they oared the air farther away,
and left us there, paddling fools,
sweating harder back to our safe shore,
to its thinner trees and falling leaves.

W.S. Di Piero

Nitro Nights
Copper Canyon Press

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