Updated: Sep 7
September brings out the poet in me. I can’t help it.
Maybe it’s the blessed lessening of the heat, maybe it’s the slant of the sun. Quite possibly it is because September is my birthday month and I am an adult now and don’t have to go to school. I am sorry for children these days starting school already in August. It’s a shame, I think. Those three months of summer vacation—beginning that last day when I stepped down out of the school bus into my own yard—felt like heaven.
But I was privileged to have my mother at home as well as my Grandma. My siblings—two brothers and a sister, all older than me—were not rushing off to baseball practice or music lessons or band rehearsals. We had our own small society just being at home and with friends on the neighboring farms for occasional visits. But, mostly, we were free to play in the barn and jump into the straw of the hayloft or coddle the kittens or swing on the rope swings my Grandpa hung from two tall pines. And read books. Oh, yes, read to our heart’s content, a whole summer-full.
We had healthy work, too. We weeded in the large garden, shelled peas on the back porch, snapped green beans, shucked the sweet corn for supper. My sister and I did the dishes and often sang together while one of us washed and the other dried. My brothers got up early to milk the cows and again in the evenings, being always attentive to thirsty cats by squirting milk straight from the cows’ teats into their yowling mouths. Sometimes, that backfired, and the cow would kick a hind leg, upsetting cat, bucket, and all.
But—I am straying. Such summers, maybe, were a kind of poetry in themselves. The freedom we had—within limits, like a poem—the color and texture of the sun-filled days or of the white billowing clouds or the sudden storms and lashing of the trees. Bare feet in green grass. The constant cackle of chickens in the background. A subconscious sense of well-being in an ordered home.
I come by the poetic tendency honestly. My dad, Grandpa, and aunt were poets. My Grandpa even self-published a slim volume, a copy of which I came across in a small shop decades after he had passed. The shop owner remembered him as a fine, upstanding man.
A year’s September ago, riding in a car along winding country roads in Germany, I jotted down what I was seeing out the window and wrote it up as a poem in German for our friend’s September birthday. It is simple, unpretentious. It doesn’t need interpreting or philosophizing, rather—"These things, these things were here and but the beholder wanting…” 1
Since I may not assume my readers know German, I translated my own poem into English, not as poetic, but most poetry is not translatable quite as the poet had in mind.
I may yet change a word or two, but for now, here is how it stands:
Out the Car Window: From Weissig to Freiberg
Cows pose on
sunny hillsides just waiting for
with country sensibilities and
Fields newly shorn and
golden with leftover summer
show themselves to
over stonewalls or along pasture lanes
performing their art
as if arranged by a charmed
Distant dark of green forests
rise against a cerulean
skyscape, where clouds
Red-tiled village rooftops
cluster in valleys as
lift the gaze
“Behold, to the Lord
heaven and the heaven
and the earth
with all that is
in it.” 2
God, the master poet, created for our pleasure what we know as September.
1 Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Hurrahing in Harvest” (Here is masterful poetry from a master poet, my favorite. Well worth several readings.)
2 Deuteronomy 10:14