Autumn’s Cathedral


“What’s she doing, mommy?”

The little boy nudges his mother, who is navigating a grassy park.  The rubber wheels of the stroller she pushes whoosh through leaves leached into shades of mustard and tan.

The boy peeks around his mother at me and at the ground beneath my feet.

I’m an oddity here.


At a preschooler’s eye level, brilliant vermillion fall flowers still hold ballet poses against a seamless blue sky.  But my camera points away from the colorful display and down towards desiccated, muddied, damp, collapsed flora.  Brilliant decay.

I am fixated on “gorgeous ruin,” like that on the pathway where poet Carol Ann Duffy’s child-self trailed her dead father:

. . . he had treaded spring and summer
grasses before I thought to stir, follow him.

Autumn’s cathedral, open to the weather, rose
high above, flawed amber, gorgeous ruin; his shadow
stretched before me, cappa magna,
my own, obedient, trailed like a nun.
He did not turn. I heard the rosaries of birds.
The trees, huge doors, swung open and I knelt.

fall2014 006

Color and life worn away, layers shredded, innards laid bare.  Sap stilled within the trunks of freshly-skeletonized trees, mammoth bees angrily buzzing in search of pollen-bearing stalwarts.   Leaves bruised, cotton candy pink now darkened to the burgundy of coagulated blood.   Seed-strewn stews: pumpkin corpses mixed with layers of dissolved leaves, dotted with spiky miniature helmets, fallen chestnuts cracked on brick sidewalks. Saw-toothed leaves mottled with dark mossy tumors, flower petals no longer gloriously plumped by silver raindrops.

Again, nuance doesn’t seem to be my thing.

fall2014 016

 Dan Chelotti wrote a poem titled “Compost“; I think I see what he did:
There is magic in decay.
A dance to be done
For the rotting, the maggot strewn
Piles of flesh which pile
Upon the dung-ridden earth
And the damp that gathers
And rusts and defiles.
There is a bit of this
In even the most zoetic soul —
The dancing child’s arms
Flailing to an old ska song
Conduct the day-old flies
Away to whatever rank
Native is closest.  . . .
And look, look outside, I think this weather
Has the chance of holding.



About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
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3 Responses to Autumn’s Cathedral

  1. scillagrace says:

    Celebrating muertos, the dancing partner of vida, of course. Well done and pictured!

  2. DeniseGlennon says:

    I have started to look at the sky, thanks to your posts and photos. I just learned in my class that there is a school of meditation called “Sky Gazing.” My meditation teacher said that, when you look at the sky and see clouds, you know that behind them is the fully sky, the universe. Rotting plants have their own beauty, but also some sadness.

  3. SimplySage says:

    Beautiful, Stephanie. Simply beautiful, both pictures and words.

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