Autumn Ivy by Margaret Gibson

Each leaf: a bright jewel, a hot coal.

If orchards, they are ripe.
If celebrations, brief.

Two weathered ones are mottled,
brown and green.

They are broad wings gliding down
the hanging scroll,

hawks on a thermal.

Soon we will sit by the window and watch
blue shadows

lengthen along the snowy fields.

When he knew he was dying, he gestured
into the sky, his voice

a hoarse brush-work, wistful:

I have always worked hard — why?

Featured in the Winter 2001 issue of Shenandoah, “Autumn Ivy” deserves another look now that Fall is officially upon us -September 22 was the first day in case you missed it- and the leaves have begun to appear like the “bright jewel[s]” that Gibson describes. As the temperature begins to drop here in Lexington, her predictions of ” snowy fields” in our future seems accurate. If you’re planning on spending the season in Leyburn Library, the last line of the poem, spoken by a dying man, might make you think again.

Margaret Gibson, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia, attended both Hollins University and the University of Virginia. She has written a memoir entitled The Prodigal Daughter: Reclaiming an Unfinished Childhood.