Penumbrae

By John Updike 1932–2009 John Updike
The shadows have their seasons, too.
The feathery web the budding maples
cast down upon the sullen lawn

bears but a faint relation to
high summer's umbrageous weight
and tunnellike continuum—

black leached from green, deep pools
wherein a globe of gnats revolves
as airy as an astrolabe.

The thinning shade of autumn is
an inherited Oriental,
red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.

Shadows on snow look blue. The skier,
exultant at the summit, sees his poles
elongate toward the valley: thus

each blade of grass projects another
opposite the sun, and in marshes
the mesh is infinite,

as the winged eclipse an eagle in flight
drags across the desert floor
is infinitesimal.

And shadows on water!—
the beech bough bent to the speckled lake
where silt motes flicker gold,

or the steel dock underslung
with a submarine that trembles,
its ladder stiffened by air.

And loveliest, because least looked-for,
gray on gray, the stripes
the pearl-white winter sun

hung low beneath the leafless wood
draws out from trunk to trunk across the road
like a stairway that does not rise.

John Updike, “Penumbrae” from Collected Poems 1953-1993. Copyright © 1993 by John Updike. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Collected Poems 1953-1993 (1993)

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Poet John Updike 1932–2009

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Spring, Summer, Nature, Winter, Fall

 John  Updike

Biography

An acclaimed and award-winning writer of fiction, essays, and reviews, John Updike has also been writing poetry for most of his life. Growing up in Pennsylvania, his early inspiration to be a writer came from watching his mother, an aspiring writer, submit her work to magazines. In an interview Updike stated, “I began as a writer of light verse, and have tried to carry over into my serious or lyric verse something of the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Spring, Summer, Nature, Winter, Fall

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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