Missing August Light

"Clover Fields," Rockwell Kent

"Clover Fields," Rockwell Kent

Two years ago I had this idea that each month of the year shone with its own unique quality of light, and that I should write a twelve-poem cycle that would capture those qualities. As it is with many summer projects, I made a start but couldn’t follow through because–well–because hammock, because barbecue. You know how it goes.

I ran across the abortive effort last night, one poem imaginatively titled “August Light,” and realized that in this chilly August, this particular light has been completely passed over. As long as you’re all showing off your North Country stoicism by resisting the impulse to fire up the furnace “just to take the chill off,” maybe this will provide you with a little warmth.

August Light

In the cool morning of a hot day
the road is lined with chicory,
purple loosestrife, buttercups
and Queen Anne’s lace.

The corn is green, grass is brown,
the sky blue, except at the horizon
where haze tints the raking light
the same shade as lemonade.

When I was five I would walk
in lemon light all by my lonesome
(without crossing the street)
to the store for a five-cent treat.

And at ten, identical light shone
down through filtering oaks
where I crossed the rusted tracks
to mess about beside the river.

It was light the shade of lemonade
I was trying to evoke at twenty,
sweating out the writing workshop,
beating at the page like a moth.

At forty, this light lit up my dad–
elbow out the window, pipe in teeth,
ball-capped, driving a ’67 Safari,
trailing his motorboat toward heaven.

Memory, sweet and sour, mixed
like lemonade in August light.
Everything everywhere always shining–
that is how the light looks now.

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