Sipping an aging whiskey of distances and departures

Sunday, 5 October, 2014

With autumn incoming, it’s time to read the poetry of Thomas McGrath, which is filled with wonderful weather imagery. Beyond the Red River is particularly good at this time of year. McGrath tells of “the long freight of autumn” and a “machinery of early storms” rolling in the direction of holiday homes where “summer still dozed in the pool-side chairs”. And there’s the lovely “aging whiskey of distances and departures”.

Beyond the Red River

The birds have flown their summer skies to the south,
And the flower-money is drying in the banks of bent grass
Which the bumble bee has abandoned. We wait for a winter lion,
Body of ice-crystals and sombrero of dead leaves.

A month ago, from the salt engines of the sea,
A machinery of early storms rolled toward the holiday houses
Where summer still dozed in the pool-side chairs, sipping
An aging whiskey of distances and departures.

Now the long freight of autumn goes smoking out of the land.
My possibles are all packed up, but still I do not leave.
I am happy enough here, where Dakota drifts wild in the universe,
Where the prairie is starting to shake in the surf of the winter dark.

Thomas McGrath (1916 — 1990)


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