Friday, September 28, 2007

Poetry Friday: Autumn Fires

I love autumn in New England. I love the crisp, cooler days, the colorful foliage, and the smell of apple-scented air. I used to enjoy taking my young daughter to a local orchard in October. We’d visit with the pigs and sheep, select a pumpkin or two to carve for Halloween, watch apples being pressed into cider, and eat delicious warm apple cider donuts. Yum!

When I was little, I enjoyed collecting shiny-shelled chestnuts…and the sound they made bonking on the ground as they fell from the chestnut tree across the street from my grandparents’ house. We kids used to rake up piles of fallen leaves, jump in them, and iron some of the most brightly colored ones between sheets of wax paper. Our parents--or my grandparents--would set piles of autumn leaves afire and we kids would watch as the smoke floated up into the air and drifted off like a wispy gray cloud. One thing I miss most about the season now is the smell of autumn leaves burning. It’s such an evocative scent.

Although summer returned to New England earlier this week for a last hurrah, I’m ready for fall…and the memory of autumn fires. So here is a classic by Robert Louis Stevenson for this Poetry Friday on the cusp of October.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
Here is a poem I wrote for A Home for the Seasons, a collection about childhood days I spent at the home of my maternal grandparents, Michael Kozicki and Anna Chalupka Kozicka. Michael and Anna came to America from Poland in the early 20th century. They met in Boston, got married, and lived in Peabody, Massachusetts for all of their married lives. (Dzidzi is what we called my grandfather.)

by Elaine Drabik Magliaro

Two tall maple trees grow

in front of my grandparents’ house.

In late October

they shed their golden crowns.

When the fallen leaves

curl up like little brown bear cubs,

we rake them into a pile

at the side of the street.

As dusk arrives

Dzidzi sets our harvest afire

with a single match.

We sit on wooden crates

at the sidewalk’s edge,

watch the brittle leaves

blossom into golden flames,

smell autumn’s pungent breath.

From the pyre summer rises,

a small gray ghost,

and drifts away

into the darkening sky.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at AmoxCalli this week.


Anonymous said...

I love the "bear cubs" line in particular, Elaine.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Thanks. The collection this poem is included in is one that is dear to my heart.

tanita✿davis said...

I never lived anywhere there were autumn bonfires, because California is so dry... now here in Scotland, we go outside of the city on the weekend, and in the chilled, moist air rises the smoke of hundreds of brush piles. It's amazing how of a feeling it gives you. These are really neat.

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous original poem! Thanks for sharing with us...

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Jules! I'm glad you liked my poem.


We haven't burned autumn leaves for years because of the laws that prohibit it. I understand the reason for the laws--but I still miss those tangible elements that are so evocative of the season: the scent of burning leaves and the sight of small columns of smoke rising into an autumn sky.

Saints and Spinners said...

Thank you for both the Stevenson verse and your own poem. Autumn is the one thing I miss about going to school in the Midwest-- Spring lasted for all of 3 seconds, and the Summer/Winter months comprised the bulk of the year, but Autumn was gorgeous. I always thought it was a pity that Autumn had to be marred by schoolwork!

Anonymous said...

I can almost smell it. Thank you -- this is lovely.

Charlotte said...

I miss the smell of burning leaves too, and poking the bonfire with sticks (at a very young age--what were my parents thinking?)

Thanks for sharing your poem! I enjoyed it.


Andromeda Jazmon said...

I love these poems! I can just see myself pulling up an old crate and joining your group of children watching that fire. We used to do the same thing when I was young. I was just talking to my boys about raking the leaves and making piles for them to jump in in a few weeks... we are looking forward to it! We don't burn them anymore, of course, with the air pollution controls and all. We shred them and put them in the mulch pile.

Unknown said...

I can smell the smoke and feel the crisp Autumn air! I want to run home and bake something.

Fiona Kernaghan said...

I'm an Australian married to a gorgeous man from New England. I wish we could spend more time in MA around Autumn! These poems made me wanna curl up in front of a fire with a bottle of red and a good book... Meanwhile summer is coming here in Oz - blazing hot by 10am and all that! Thanks for the lovely blog.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Autumn is truly my favorite season. You live in a beautiful area of the country, too. I hope to visit there again some day.


Thanks. It's difficult to capture in words all the evocative sights, smells, and sounds of autumn in New England.


When I was young, my father built a stone fireplace in our backyard. I still remember the time I sat with friends by the fire toasting marshallows one autumn day at dusk.


We have a movie of my daughter jumping in piles of leaves and saying nursery rhymes when she was little. How I miss those days!


If you bake an apple pie...I'll be there!


I don't often get visitors here at Wild Rose Reader from the land of Oz. You'll just have to plan a trip here some October with that handsome New Englander one day. I hope I catch your appearance on the Today Show!