The Old Man in the Autumn

The Old Man in the Autumn

A Poem by S.T. Scrivener

October roads are littered with nostalgia;

auburn and crimson embers sink

like ash to the ground,

perpetually estranged from the spirited conflagration

as an old man is estranged from his wife of fifty years

after knowing her when her eyes bore the lucidity of an autumn sky,

after knowing her when her fair hair was full and gleaming,

after knowing her when she was able to distinguish the fact

that he was the man she loved,

before her mind became opaque and disjointed,

before her skin became as brittle as a desiccated maple leaf,

before she lost the steadiness to hold a sheaf of papers

without causing them to tremble

as a blazing autumn oak tree trembles lugubriously in the wind.


As he crunches down the

worn, flaming path,

his arthritic fingers clumped in a gnarled fist

deep within the recesses of his jacket pockets,

the old man smiles dejectedly as a young couple passes by,

their spry Labrador trotting happily by their side.

How it was, he muses, scuffing a stone along with his shoe,

to hold her hand and walk down here this time every fall.


A few minutes later he happens across a spindly sapling,

its arms thin as matchsticks,

its leaves defiantly clinging to its last remains of green

despite knowing that ruthless Nature will inevitably drain it all away.

The sight of this display of childish insubordination

 reminds him of his son,

once a boy as small as that little tree

with convictions as grand as a red oak.

The man turns his face and shuffles along;

he has neither seen

nor heard

from his son for several years now,

not since her death drove him away to a place

where autumn does not exist;

to dwell upon it is to be struck

with great sorrow and longing,

like strained branches keening under intense wind.


Turning around,

the old man hunches his shoulders

in a futile effort to keep the chill from freezing his ears.

He grimaces; his hip never was the same,

not since the accident.

She patched me up, though, he recalls longingly,

she patched me up real good.

Didn’t even need a doctor. He chuckles.

Didn’t even need a doctor.

 I bet she could’ve stitched me up better

 with a needle and that blue thread of hers

than that uppity man with his nose in the air

like he was trying to find the sun.

And he didn’t do a good job, neither.

 But I know she could’ve.

 She could do just about anything.


A troupe of jack-o-lanterns grin

with the unrefined skill of young children on his neighbor’s porch.

Massaging his leg as he hobbles by,

he sighs and coughs. He looked so darn cute that year"

musta been around six or seven"in that cowboy costume.

She did a real good job, putting that whole outfit together.

Even made a holster and everything.

Felt a little bad for the kid

when she wouldn’t let him put a fake gun in it, though.

The old man cranes his neck to face the twilit sky.

You don’t mind if I let him have it, anyway,

do you, darling?

I know you always said I babied the kid,

said I’d turn him into a cube of sugar,

but he came out to be a good grown man, didn’t"


He stops mid-sentence,

unable to utter that very last word.

Standing at the lip of his driveway,

he pulls his hands out of his pockets

and pries his stiff, tangled fingers apart.

Night has fallen.

So, it seems, has his happiness.


© 2011 S.T. Scrivener

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Added on March 23, 2011
Last Updated on March 23, 2011
Tags: loss, growth, realization, maturity, old, death, family, abandonment, autumn, fall, leaves


S.T. Scrivener
S.T. Scrivener

Green Bay, WI

I am 18 and have the whole world ahead of me, even though most of the time the very thought of facing existence is enough to send me running. All my life I've written; so many people have predicted I .. more..