Tuesday, November 1, 2011


These powerful days around the Celtic New Year have always pulled at my soul.  Today is All Saints Day or All Hallows.  I remember a poem of Louise Gluck's that I loved many years ago.  I'd say it's haunted me ever since I first read it and remains a favorite, although I've found her later work less compelling.  My sequence HALLOWS follows Gluck's poem.  This was written for my grandmother, who is the "saint" in the second section;  the third honors All Souls Day, also known as El Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico and Central America.  For All Souls Day (tomorrow), I will share a poem by my friend Glenda Beall, who lives in Hayesville, North Carolina


Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
Sleep in their blue yoke,
The fields having been
Picked clean, the sheaves
Bound evenly and piled at the roadside
Among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
Of harvest or pestilence
And the wife leaning out the window
With her hand extended, as in payment,
And the seeds
Distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

Louise Gluck



These leaves at my window,
death-speckled black oak and blood-maple,

fall to the earth into which
she was sealed, leaving me

to imagine I see through the hollows 
of what were her eyes how another day 

breaks on the backs of the scrub pines
that stand up to welcome it.

She was no saint.
She never fasted,
and if she prayed, 
I never heard her

aside from the Lawsy
she uttered as down
she sank onto the dark
of the chamber pot 
while I tried to be sleeping.

She stirred up the fire
to a roar every morning and beat
the dough smooth, shoved it into the oven
to bake and be eaten. When I hear Pavarotti 
sing Panis Angelicus,  I see her hands
deep in the dough bowl,

and I hear the fire in the stove rumble,
I hear her clucking and sighing,
she who could never on this earth
deliver unto any table a dry piece of cornbread,
whose old-fashioned cakes
that lay solid as flesh on the  plates
put to shame every paper-thin
slice of the town-ladies’ angelfood cakes.
Any honest- to-god  angel

 would have preferred them,
a dollop of whipped cream atop
every thick slice and after that, oh, 
just a touch of  her Christmas divinity.

Los Muertos.  The dead.
They are out there this morning, 
in the woods with the busy  squirrels 
laying up treasures on earth, 
this  heaven of acorns and walnuts.
This granary.

These last dawns before the leaves go,
I wake early to watch from the window
my  dead ones out there in the woods
leaf by  leaf come
to rest on the ground 
where at last they have nothing 
to say beyond what’s meant 
to lie on the earth and be claimed by it.
from Coming To Rest, LSU Press


  1. Wonderful post, Kay. I particularly enjoyed the verses about your grandmother. The photos sing the songs of autumn.

  2. Just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this feast of words!