Competition 51: Autumnale

String of red leves on grey wall

After a slow start, autumnal entries began to build up like the fallen leaves that figured in so many of them. However, Susan Jarvis Bryant sprang a surprise in the prevailing cold, damp and gloom with her news from Texas. ‘Autumn is here and the temperature’s soaring’, amid spring-green leaves, trilling cicadas and calls for iced tea and sunscreen. Entries from the other end of the USA, however, were a reminder that the season often presages something climatically more severe than here in soggy Blighty, making even more welcome Martin Elster’s ‘stealthy cat-like creeping up of Spring.’ Bob Eccleston had pink-footed geese above and ‘the purest of purple fruits’ below and, disliking summer, concluded that autumn ‘is a season built to please.’

With thanks to all those who took part, below are the results, in no particular order, of the judge’s raking and sieving.


Gillian Ewing: Autumn

Autumn . . . the puddled hush of tyres, the swish
of dragging feet in fallen drifted leaves,
and then the breeze-brushed splat and splash
of drizzle dripping under rotting eaves,
a greedy gobble from a glutted gutter;
a sudden siren, the reprise of warning
from a reversing wagon, muffled mutter
of a cloud-cloistered plane, a cocky starling
throwing back the high complaint of rooks.
An old black collie wheezing herself dry
beside the whispering stove, some metallic ticks
from radiators newly switched to high,
the crackling news, your syncopated snore –
nothing that sounds romantic any more.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Jane Blanchard: Aubade of Autumn 2020

Though tempted to remain in bed,
I choose to take a walk instead.

Before the sun arises, too,
The eastern sky turns pink and blue.

These colours fade, but then I see
The red leaves of a maple tree.

And on each oak are leaves of gold,
Except on branches now too old.

Throughout this time, around this place,
I try to keep a steady pace.

Not missing summer’s humid heat,
I find fall’s mildness bittersweet.

Yet winter’s chill is still to come
To close a year of tedium.

As I consider how life goes,
Some horrid bug flies up my nose.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Bruce McGuffin: Autumn's Melody

My mind wanders back to long-gone autumn days.
Golden sun on red leaves and a thin smoky haze.
The hiss and faint rattle of rakes on the lawn
And the crackle of burning leaf piles – all gone.
Who has time now to rake? And that smoke in the air
was pollution. Leaf burning is banned everywhere.
If my children are moved by nostalgia some day
As leaves fall to the ground will they look back and say
"These sights and those sounds recall lost days of yore
The shouting grounds crew and the leaf blowers' roar"?

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Mike Mesterton-Gibbons: On Bonfire Night

October is the month we make a heap,
Not only of dead wood that trees have shed,
But also of the junk we cannot keep:
Old clutter that throughout the house has spread,
Now neither ornament, nor fit to use.
For on November Fifth, a bonfire bash
Is by tradition when we light a fuse,
Reducing old embarrassments to ash . . .
Each man of straw sits right on top for show.
No villain is too old for any year:
It may be some quite recent scoundrel, though
Guy Fawkes may still get disrespected here . . .
However long the flames remain alight
They feed catharsis on our Bonfire Night!

 ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Martin Elster: Lovebugs (Plecia nearctica)

A flurry grays the autumn air
as clouds of speckles swirl and mate,
euphoric, blazing, unaware

of windshields on the interstate
hurtling through their fevered storm.
These whirlwind-wings pursuing their fate,

in red and black above the warm
blacktop, link and live three days.
Tripping on truck exhaust, they swarm,

convinced it’s flora which decays.
They catch the fumes, sweet as the spice
of rot, home in on motorways

and, as they’re turned to mush, think, “Nice!–
manure, grass clippings – paradise!”

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

John Beaton: Ovillejo for Autumn

It’s time for coats and hats
and that’s
a worry – winds create
a great
flurry of leaves. The chief
relief
is winter will be brief,
for coming snows and muds
will cede to springtime buds
and that’s a great re-leaf.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Katie Mallett: Autumn Odium

Season of mould and squelchy sogginess,
Of windfall apples in the paling sun,
Of pears in piles of musty bogginess,
Of plums, bruised and sticky as juices run
Fermenting beneath drought-withered trees
As earwigs and ants invade their core
To lurch off drunk as the spoiled fruit swells
And bursts to cover the orchard floor
With a carpet of gunge that even bees
And wasps cannot dispose of with ease
And the nose is assailed with acrid smells.

Shall I ever remove this harvest store
Which festers, an ulcer on my mind,
A blot on the landscape, a running sore
That wafts its decay on the homeward wind?
Shall I discard all attempts at sleep
And spend half the night with my recipe book
Trying to use all my God given hours
Peeling and chopping? I choke and weep
With barely a moment to stop and look
At TV as I gather and cut and cook
And wish the crop had remained as flowers.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦


Autumn 2020 : D. A Prince

Season of masks, anti-bacterial spray
and all close-bosom friends two yards away.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

Alan Millichip: The Harvest Mouse

Home, shaped like a ball in an ear of corn,
Warmth and comfort in a place it can thrive;
Safer to be in the tall and dense reeds,
Well out of reach of mechanical scythe.

No need to forage for berries and seeds,
Just out of the door let Autumn provide;
But no relaxation can be allowed,
A downbeat of air and it needs to hide.

Shaped feet are useful when climbing for food, in
Rape seed or barley or tight sheaves of gold;
But long tails get tangled when needing to flee,
The swoop of an owl finds it out in the cold.

Cotoneaster bush with red berries