Autumn has put on its brittle shell,

or taken off. Half-naked and too skinny

in a rust-colored negligee, the oaks striptease

to the high ice-music

of the shifting pallor of the sky.


The photograph captures

an instant, the story

captures a thread. Nothing’s

gospel, just a little reflected

radiance, motes dancing

in a shaft of sun.


That’s what

our lives are. We’re not

after unvarnished

truth. Truth, yes, but varnish

is what we’re all about, the glossy

veneer, protective coat.


The sun in hiding now,

the Sierra dreaming of snow,

but so far there’s just this

gold and copper lingerie

strewn on the forest

floor, scattered on the green

altar of the outstretched arms of cedar,

a counterfeit clothing for these



What is revealed

in this paring down? What gets unhoused

in me as autumn’s candle sputters?

Some small ache burrows

like a mole in the dark, seeking comfort,


isolation, as the temperature

drops and the holidays

begin their unstoppable



Movies, books, a nap on the couch,

anything will do

to elude this fierce-eyed



Music of the season,

nothing more.


©Maxima Kahn. This poem was first published in an earlier form in the literary journal Slant.