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Original Poem: "Autumn in Our Backyard" With Commentary

Updated on September 22, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Autumn in the Village

Source

Introduction: A Word about the American Sonnet

The American sonnet is a fascinating form. It is also called "Innovative Sonnet." The term innovative describes perfectly the fact that the American sonnet is based very loosely on the traditional sonnets.

While the traditional sonnets—Petrarchan and Elizabethan—display in a tight, strict structure, the American sonnet expresses more freedom of movement.

The American sonnet often lacks a rime-scheme or a patten of rhythm. Only the number of 14 lines remains a constant that adheres to the traditional sonnet scheme.

The subject matter of the American sonnet remains similar to that of the traditional sonnets in that it almost always focuses on topics that are heartfelt human issues—love, suffering, death, truth, beauty, and the mysteries of living the life of a human being.

Autumn in Our Backyard

for Ronald

Winter coming on catches me at the sliding door
summing up blessings, fixed between you and the glass.

The vegetable garden is losing its summer blush
& the flower bed is turning back its quilt.

Shadows of the evergreens lengthen into afternoon.
The sycamore submits to the grass its finished poems.

And the grass fingers each leaf until snow covers them.
The grass is steadier than tomatoes, reminding you

of summer as long as it holds the word.
The grass underwrites all that happens here,

hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds,
patterns a flag for the poet.

Winter coming on catches me reading the remnants of summer
watching the shuffle of autumn in our backyard.

Commentary

First Couplet: "Winter coming on catches me at the sliding door"

The first couplet recalls the speaker standing at their patio door, looking out into the backyard, her husband standing behind her, arms wrapped around her, as they both admire the beauty of their backyard.

Second Couplet: "The vegetable garden is losing its summer blush"

The speaker notions that the sustaining vegetable garden has headed into fall, harvest over, recalling the activities that were shared by the couple.

Third Couplet: "And the grass fingers each leaf until snow covers them"

The speaker submits an image of how the shadows of trees grow longer as the sun moves across the day, then in observationally metaphoric mode, likens the leaves falling from the trees to poets sending out their wares to publishers, in the often vain attempt to get published.

The leaves will have no such problem as it submits its leaflets.

Fourth Couplet: "of summer as long as it holds the word"

The grass accepts each poem/leaf and fondles it until the winter snow blankets both the grass and the leaf, publishing those poems into the chemical acceptance to which they utterly belong.

The speaker notes that the grass is pretty much always there—not like tomatoes that appear, you pick them, and they are gone until next year.

The speaker then teases with “reminding you"— of what?

Fifth Couplet: "of summer as long as it holds the word"

That the grass reminds you that it is summer as long as it remains green. But unlike tomatoes, it will still be there looking kind of brown but there.

The importance of the grass has now taken over the narrative; somewhat Whitmanesquely, the grass becomes a ubiquitous entity with a catalogue of duties: it "hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds, / patterns a flag for the poet."

Sixth Couplet: "hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds"

The grass becomes a ubiquitous entity with a catalogue of duties: it "hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds, / patterns a flag for the poet.”

No one can deny the importance of grass.

Homeowners demand a fine bunch of grass surrounding their house. Lawn care has even become a big business venture.

Seventh Couplet: "Winter coming on catches me reading the remnants of summer"

The speaker returns to the tranquil notion that she is watching her backyard turn to autumn: summer is raucous with activity; now things are shutting down, life shuts down, and the beauty of shutting down needs to be explored.

If a backyard can dramatize the “shuffle of autumn,” what might the shuffle into the old-age of a human being portray?

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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