A late-blooming burgundy hollyhock sways
across the kitchen window in a light breeze
as I draw a tumbler of well-water at the sink.
We’re face to face, as in St. Paul’s Epistles
or the later novels of Henry James.

The cold rains of autumn have begun.
Driving to Hanover I must have seen
a thousand frogs in the headlights
crossing the gleaming road. Like sheep urged
by a crouching dog they converged
and flowed. They do it every fall.
I couldn’t help hitting some.

At dinner I laughed with the rest,
but in truth I prefer the sound
of pages turning, and coals shifting
abruptly in the stove. I left before ten
pleading a long drive home.

The smell of woodsmoke hung
over small villages along the way.

I passed the huge cold gray stone
buildings left by the chaste Shakers.
Any window will still open with one finger.
Hands to work, and hearts to God ….

Why do people give dinner parties? Why did I
say I’d come? I suppose no one there was entirely
at ease. Again the flower leans this way:
you know it’s impolite to stare. I’ll put
out the light.... And there’s an end to it.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 9, on page 47
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