Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Loren Eiseley: "Another Kind of Autumn," a poem

I was surprised when I discovered that Loren Eiseley was a poet, as well as an essayist. However, the style of his prose writings should have told me. Here is one, an autumn poem.

Another Kind of Autumn

The petrified branch with the harsh look whose mineralized
splinters are needle sharp
was living a hundred million years ago,
bent to invisible wind, put out leaves on the mountain.
the mountain is gone and this fragment
lies on my desk imperishable and waits for me in turn
to be gone.
Living once it has taken to minerals for survival.
This hand that writes
stiffens, but has no such powers, no crystalline absorption
to hold a pen through eons while slow thought gutters
from lichen-green boulders and fallen pinnacles.
Ink will congeal and perish, the pen rust into its elements,
the thought here, the realization of time, perish
with the dissolving brain. It appears the universe
likes the seams of the coal, the lost leaf imprinted in shale,
the insect in amber, but thought it gives to the wind
like the season's leaf fall. Where is the wind that shaped
this branch?
It perhaps still moves in the air, but the branch has fallen.
Its unfamiliar leaves are now part of my body
and I let the pen drop with my hand, thinking
this is another kind of autumn to be expected.
Leaves and thought are scarcely returnable. The wind
loses them
or one remains in the shale like an unread hieroglyph
once meaningful in clay.
-- Loren Eiseley --
the title poem from Another Kind of Autumn

We too often think that our intellectual powers and consciousness make us creation's finest achievement, but, even if true, it's a short-lived reign at best. I doubt that even our most magnificent architectural structures or our most imposing intellectual compositions will last as long as that petrified branch.


  1. Dear Fred,
    A lovely poem. I just purchased a book of his poetry and googled Eiseley as I knew nothing about him. Here in Vancouver there is an amazing second hand book store and in the depths of the lower floor, one could easily get lost. The poetry section alone is vast. I am making it my personal quest to read and enjoy as much poetry as I can. This poem expresses the Buddhist teaching of impermanence very well.

  2. Diane,

    Yes, that sense of impermanence really suffuses Eiseley's thought, whether it be expressed in poetry or prose. Which book of poetry did you get?

    Have you read any of his prose?