November’s probably my least favorite month. This year I’m feeling great, in part because I’ve begun work on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. But in November of 2010, I was mired in a deep depression. I wrote this poem in Julie Gutman’s class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. The assignment was to write a poem modeled after Wallace Stevens’ Twelve Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.
I write my strongest poetry when I’m depressed. It’s a wonderful form of therapy. Lots of the imagery I used still applies, but the way I’m looking at it now is much sunnier. Still, I dedicate this poem to those readers who are prone to doom and gloom at this time of year. Trust in the sunny days to come!
Eleven Ways of Looking at November
Cling to my smoke tree
Breathing in pale November sunlight.
The dead oak’s gray-brown branches
Hollowed by woodpeckers
Sway outside my window
Waiting for November’s winds
To tear them down at last.
My mother died in late November.
I crafted a comforting casserole
From the dregs of Thanksgiving dinner.
Wafting across my body from the open window.
Swaddled in Polar Fleece to save on oil,
I’ve learned to welcome the encroaching cold.
Election Day’s finally over. News is bad
This chill November morning.
A hard freeze frosts the fallen autumn leaves
Ushering in years of deadlock and decline.
The slanting sun casts shadows on the siding
Of the house across the way, silhouetting
A scrawny maple shedding yellow leaves.
Its roots snake unseen beneath our basement.
November’s high time to take it down but even so
We’ll probably let it be.
A friend my age is failing. A housebound invalid,
She measures out these cold November days
In solitude, refuses visitors.
She longs for death, having a valid reason
My withering November garden.
Only stonecrop thrives
Among the shriveled thistles, chicory
And Queen Anne’s Lace. In my depression,
I let them go to seed.
Daylight savings’s over in November.
Fall back and gain an extra hour
To while away in bed
Dreading another day
Of uninspired ordinary options.
November rain falls hard and cold
On my neglected garden
Nourishing buried bulbs of daffodil and crocus.
In spring they’ll bloom again around the graves
Of late beloved pets.
People are prone to seasonal affective sadness
In this the eleventh month, so says my shrink.
But still I hold firm to nearly barren branches,
Stubborn as rusty crimson smoke tree leaves
In the November rain.
November 4, 2010