The Cradle Logic of Autumn

By Jay Wright b. 1934 Jay Wright

En mi país el Otoño nace de una flor seca,
de algunos pajaros; . . .
o del vaho penetrante de ciertos rios de la llanura.
—Molinari, “Oda a una larga tristeza”

Each instant comes with a price, the blue-edged bill   
on the draft of a bird almost incarnadine,   
the shanked ochre of an inn that sits as still   
as the beavertail cactus it guards (the fine   
rose of that flower gone as bronze as sand),   
the river's chalky white insistence as it   
moves past the gray afternoon toward sunset.   
Autumn feels the chill of a late summer lit   
only by goldenrod and a misplaced strand   
of blackberries; deplores all such sleight of hand;   
turns sullen, selfish, envious, full of regret.

Someone more adept would mute its voice. The spill   
of its truncated experience would shine
less bravely and, out of the dust and dunghill   
of this existence (call it hope, in decline),
as here the blue light of autumn falls, command   
what is left of exhilaration and fit
this season's unfolding to the alphabet
of turn and counterturn, all that implicit   
arc of a heart searching for a place to stand.   
Yet even that diminished voice can withstand   
the currying of its spirit. Here lies—not yet.

If, and only if, the leafless rose he sees,
or thinks he sees, flowered a moment ago,
this endangered heart flows with the river that flees   
the plain, and listens with eye raised to the slow   
revelation of cloud, hoping to approve   
himself, or to admonish the rose for slight   
transgressions of the past, this the ecstatic   
ethos, a logic that seems set to reprove   
his facility with unsettling delight.
Autumn might be only desire, a Twelfth Night   
gone awry, a gift almost too emphatic.

Logic in a faithful light somehow appeases   
the rose, and stirs the hummingbird's vibrato.   
By moving, I can stand where the light eases   
me into the river's feathered arms, and, so,   
with the heat of my devotion, again prove   
devotion, if not this moment, pure, finite.   
Autumn cradles me with idiomatic
certainty, leaves me nothing to disapprove.
I now acknowledge this red moon, to requite   
the heart alone given power to recite
its faith, what a cradled life finds emblematic.

Jay Wright, “The Cradle Logic of Autumn” from Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jay Wright b. 1934

Subjects Nature, Fall, Weather, Animals

 Jay  Wright


Frequently described as a “poet’s poet,” Jay Wright has quietly built an impressive career as one of America’s leading African-American voices. His work, praised for its evocative language, introspective tone, and mythological imagery, has won many honors, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, and Yale’s prestigious Bollingen Prize. Wright’s plays, essays, and poetry generally . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Fall, Weather, Animals

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.