Autumn

by Daniel Hartley

The evening is once more ‘spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table’, but it is something other than a yellow fog which rubs its back and muzzle at every corner of every window of every street. You hear it in the rain, you feel it in the fresh-remembered cold, you smell it in the newly radiatored rooms: something is afoot that moves like loss. Fallen leaves – brown amnesiacs – forget the branches who shudder from their grief. Puddles gather to reflect on their incertitude. The whole world is broken-hearted.

Reliable, secretly contemplative husbands imagine what might have been or what simply never was; the wives stand at their doors exhaling smoke into the nearly liberating air. The threshold is renewed each time they never cross it in their mind. Even children seem to sense a brooding undertow to games that just a month ago (but what is time to they who live in dreams?) felt light as beach balls in the multicoloured air. Everything contracts and hugs itself, suspecting absence where something should have been.

Even Melancholy doesn’t strut or pout, but sadly lingers at the steps outside the station. The platforms, where the trains are always leaving, where the people say goodbye and let things go, surrender to the early nights whose frost defies all welcome.

But the fleeting waft of a distant log fire is enough to kindle something else. Loss prowls like a jaguar through the town and in his eyes there is a glow. It is the memory of the pain of old desire.

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