I realise it’s a bit late to offer you a poem called ‘Early October Snow‘, but it turned up in my inbox right at the end of last month and I can’t bear to wait another year before sharing it! I think Robert Haight’s poem is quietly beautiful in its imagery, and powerful in an understated way; so I hope that, thinking so too, you’ll forgive my tardiness.

This is one of those poems which changes gear in the final lines. The images of that thin first snow—the first “real” cold—and how the landscape is transformed are beautifully observed (I particularly love ‘pale muslin/ stretched across the grass’); but when this is likened to the finding of a first (or another) white hair—’winter/ … laid over [our own personal] autumn’—it becomes quietly but definitely shiversome. The effect reminds me of something I read years ago in Germaine Greer’s book about the menopause, The Change, where, Greer likens coming to the end of your fertile life to feeling the angel of death passing over you. The angel moves away again, settles and furls her wings, and is gone from your consciousness. One part of your life is over, but you’re not actually facing the end. Nonetheless you have felt the draught of the angel’s passing, and have been changed by it.

Thus when we re-read ‘Early October Snow’ the opening statement ‘It will not stay’ feels different from the first time—something more like reassuring yourself, perhaps. So it is, sometimes, when we get one of those intimations of mortality: they recede, or we back away from them, because they are uncomfortable. It’s still October after all.

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