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by Robert Russell

Winner of the 2020 Pat Nestler Creative Writing Award Poetry Category 


The sun wasn’t meant to shine so brightly.

The silver that lines the murky blanket above

            the celestial ceiling

            the seraphic cast

            the empyrean stretch

            that which ruffles and billows and travels farther than the eye can see

ushers forth a foreshadowing chill which gently nudges and spurs foliage into bringing into the offing a light and fulsome fall.


Trees sway and transform under such invisible force.


Verdant and viridian fade into fulvous

            and puce and ochre

            dancing and descending by the brisk breeze

                        a reaper of leaves


Green slips turn tawny chips

            that, underfoot, catch my ears in a satisfaction

                        a reminder of the time

                        an aural autumnal augur

                                    unfound in any other season

Fruits fall

Mountains loom

Friends call

Squash bloom

            And what casts a shadow against the orchard’s floor is not gloom

                        But a greeting from a forgotten fall


Chickadees and swallows evolve into ravens and jackdaws

            A cast of colors murdered by shades of black


A tepid air

            A once leaving embrace

            A welcome

            A grace

                        now grows crisp

                                    sharp at sunrise

                                    smooth at sunset

                                    gentle and fine through the course

                                                but that still caresses my skin

                                                            turning hair into soldiers

                                                            flesh into feathers


She is here again.

            A daily dose of nostalgia

            A rush of that childhood excitement

            The love of fear

                        And the fear of growing up

            A multitude of masks that I still wear

            The flutter of the heart

                        And the tingles of the spine

                                    The ones that left long ago


There is a missing-ness

            What the Portuguese call “saudade”

                        That which is undefinable

                        That which comes now only once a year and only at the end

                                    The epilogue

                                    The credits

                                    The punctuation.


And what happens next is the rebirth of hope that that silver lining once held.

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