The Leaves’ Leavetaking
January 22, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Howard Moss, the late poet, was born today in 1922. Moss’s Selected Poems won the National Book Award in 1972; he served as The New Yorker’s poetry editor for nearly forty years, from 1948 until his death in 1987. The Paris Review published his poem “A Balcony with Birds” in our fourth issue, circa the winter of 1953; an excerpt follows.
The light that hangs in the ailanthus weaves
The leaves’ leavetaking overtaking leaves.
The actual is real and not imagined,—still,
The eye, so learned in disenchantment, sees
Two trees at once, this one of summer’s will,
And winter’s one, when no bird will assail
The skyline’s hyaline transparencies,
Emptying its architecture by degrees.
Roundly in its fury, soon, the sun
Feverish with light, goes down, and on
Come ambitious stars—the stars that were
But this morning dimmed. Somewhere a slow
Piano scales the summits of the air
And disappears, and dark descends, and though
The birds turn off their songs now light is gone,
The mind drowned in the dark may dream them on.