Taking Temperature

Is it a dogwood, looking so dogged
from where I sit behind a large pane of clear wisdom
protected here in an air conditioned autumn, not fall
and not out there beyond my comfort—

Not out where the dogged dogwood,
the one I think is maybe an ash
but anyway an ash that has failed
to grasp the meaning of its being,

out there in the confused fall so glassily opposed
to the autumn where I sit and stare
because its upper story of leaves is all brown,
all the post-equinox margin of fall.

But its understory is still August green
and the tree itself is trying so hard
to figure out outside what it is doing
and what is happening to it when all the other trees—

The oak, the birch, the aspen, the poplar,
the rest of the world of leafiness is just so
confused as is the dogged ash
by a fall that is partly over and partly not begun,

while I sit here in my own falling foliage
incubated in the air-conditioned autumn
where I can’t see the green dying of leaves,
the evolving fen-lands of distant tundra.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.