She slips in unnoticed. When we see she has arrived we wonder how we could have missed someone so startling. The coolness of her presence brings relief, but also order as squirrels and students fall together into servitude. Birds flee her. We fear her, not her presence but her absence, for we know when she leaves us, she will leave us cold and colorless. Her hair grows kaleidoscope, catching the breath, the eye, the mind, and she gives freely of it to wondering admirers, though it fades heartbreaking brown with time, for her gift is in the giving and the taking, not the keeping, and death is her life. At last she gives all, takes all, and retreats, bald, shivering, unnoticed once again.
About this poem
I wrote this for the "Craft of Poetry" class I took at Grinnell in the fall of 1997. The title (which means "The Autumn is Indescribable") comes from a startlingly accurate crayon drawing (above) that an exchange student from Central America drew upon seeing maple trees change color for the first time. I wish I remembered his name or even the country he came from, but he did at least give me the drawing...
An earlier version of the poem used male pronouns, since the word "otoño" is masculine, but the class unanimously felt that the described behavior, which is quirky and mysterious in a woman, would be creepy and frightening from a man, so I had to change him to a her!