What I’m Falling For

I opened the new issue of Passager (Issue 71, 2021 Poetry Contest) to find a Fall poem, and lost (or found) the next hour, reading poem after poem. It’s a wonderful issue, and I’m happy to recommend it—and not only because it includes a poem of mine.

This poem makes me think of fall, though I’m not sure that’s the season represented.


The imprint of a perfect sphere
lies almost hidden in the bleached grasses
of this abandoned field. Each
year it seems to expand a little like a stone’s
splash in the weeds of still water.

Some call it Alien. Others the ring
around the ghost of a felled oak. Or merely
mycology, the way fungus arcs outward
from single spore. It’s the exactness

that entices. A galaxy laid flat. When
I step inside I feel the clockwise spin
and then how motion washes inward
and out again along invisible spokes. I

have never known such stillness
and radiance, abandoned like the pasture.
A necessary journey somewhere—or just here.

—Joanne M. Clarkson

Clarkson’s poem is a time-machine. Typing those words, I’m struck by how many poems are precisely that. But here it’s not just that the poem woos the past back but that the particular moment we’re invited to visit is one in which the poet steps into an enchanted circle and…goes…somewhere. Is it just that the poet has entered a “thin place,” where the past, present, and future all whirl together? In the fall of the year, it seems to me, we are especially susceptible to such places. Everything is changing. We can struggle to hang onto what we know, or we can, as someone wise once told me, “embrace the changing.”

So that’s what I’m tasking myself with. What are those slippery places in my own life where time has stopped rushing forward and held me in place to look? Or catapulted me backwards, “the clockwise spin / and then…”? When have I felt “such stillness /and radiance, abandoned…”?


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