Saturday

Oct. 3, 2009

Harvest

by Louise Gluck

It's autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They're beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they're gone. Black, moldy—
you can't take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.

Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.

At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.

The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground's so hard the farmers think
it isn't worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?

And then the frost comes; there's no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.

I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.

What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.

"Harvest" by Louise Glück from A Village Life. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Thomas Wolfe, (books by this author) born in Asheville, North Carolina (1900). He wrote autobiographical novels, including Look Homeward, Angel (1929). In that book, he fictionalized his hometown and the people he knew in it. He cast himself as Eugene Grant, a kid who grew up reading history and adventure books.

Wolfe spent many years trying to become a playwright. But he was convinced to become a novelist by Aline Bernstein, a married woman 20 years older than Wolfe, with whom he had a five-year love affair. He dedicated Look Homeward, Angel to her, and made her the model for several characters in his novels.

Many of Wolfe's writings were published after his death at a young age from meningitis. Before leaving on his last trip, he left an eight-foot-tall crate of notebooks and writing with his editor. This included outlines for his next two novels. After his sudden death, the editor went through the writings and created two novels, The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can't Go Home Again (1940).

It's the birthday of American novelist Gore Vidal, (books by this author) born Eugene Luther Vidal, in West Point, New York (1925). He's the author of many novels, including Washington, D.C. (1967) and Duluth: A Novel (1983), a satire of Dallas.

It's the birthday of historian and statesman George Bancroft, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1800), who lived to be 90 years old and said, "By common consent gray hairs are a crown of glory; the only object of respect that can never excite envy."

And he said, "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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