September is not a month but a convergence of months. It is two rivers of light that flow into each other: August, strong and proud, baking the crops toward harvest, and October, gentle and shaded, a hint of frost in its breezes. August and October are not friends, and cities die when they meet. We pray that the crops, the wheat and corn and wine, can be safe in the healing sun and escape the rage of oceans.
We try to forget the rage and remember only the healing. We trot out the rhymes, shopworn and threadbare: September, November, December, Remember. We remember the joyous soar of Maurice White’s brass section, Walter Huston ruminating on these last few precious days, Jerry Orbach reminding us of when we were tender and callow. The brass is not always joyous. The days have always been few and precious. We have always been tender and callow. The frost always comes to those not blown into the sea.
We are the sum of everything that has flowed into us, and of how we have flowed into others. What do we remember? Do we deserve our memories? When we sing, do we sing truthfully?
The September light is golden on the trees. The wind is just starting to increase. Branches shake, then wave. It is a hard thing, trying to be heard over the wind. Your voice quivers like the leaves.
From my French doors, I see the wires for the Christmas lights on the balcony across the way. They went up on St. Nicholas’ Day, and have not come down. Every night since they have been my experience of the holidays. This is a winter when celebration means death, and gatherings are an unattainable dream. Tonight the lights will shine again—red, green, and gold, arranged along the edge of the railing and down to form an arc above the ground-floor doorway.
A squirrel, puffed with winter fur and fat, stops on my balcony to nibble an acorn. I hear his incisors stutter against the shell. His feathered apostrophe of a tail twitches in concentration. He has no scent of me, otherwise he would scurry off. Does it have any dreams, except of acorns?
The squirrel will be gone from my balcony when the lights come on. Those lights will be visible only to the windows across the courtyard. It is our secret celebration, my neighbors’ and mine. We will have that brightness tonight. We pray the arc above the door will bend toward justice. We pray it will bend toward hope, toward joy.
Miles David Moore’s latest book, Man on Terrace with Wine, was published by Kelsay Books in 2020. He is the author of two previous full-length books of poetry—The Bears of Paris (1995) and Rollercoaster (2004), both published by The Word Works—and a chapbook, Buddha Isn’t Laughing (1999), from Argonne House Press. From 1994 to 2017, he organized and hosted the IOTA poetry reading series in Arlington, Va.