The End of Summer

By Rachel Hadas b. 1948 Rachel Hadas
Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

Rachel Hadas, “The End of Summer” from Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Rachel Hadas. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

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Poet Rachel Hadas b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Summer, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Time & Brevity, Nature, Trees & Flowers

Holidays Labor Day

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Rachel  Hadas

Biography

The daughter of renowned classical scholar Moses Hadas, whose early death she has said gave her a “premature sense of the yoking of love and loss,” Rachel Hadas has published numerous collections of poetry, essays, and translations. Kevin Walzer, an editor at WordTech Communications who published Hadas’s The River of Forgetfulness (2006), comments that “her work—steeped in her knowledge of classical Greek and Latin, formally . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Summer, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Time & Brevity, Nature, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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