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Original Poem: "After the Affection of a Late Autumn" with Commentary

Updated on October 8, 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.

Icicles hanging in window


After the Affection of a Late Autumn

We wore winter
Like a blazer keeps shoulders square
Almost military design.

In the pockets of poems
We slipped dry ice
& hung frigid at the end of each line.

Where we lived
Icicles hung naked reminders
In the window
Where thawing is dripping to death.

In the thick of it
The fabric
Of a patchwork affair
Quilted us from each other.
Yet the dreams that seemed to lodge us
Between sheets of ice
Caught spring spilling down a mountain
Glancing off my shoulder the glacial waters
That fed my amazement that anything so cold can move.

Now that summer runs at the mouth
Slow as sorghum on the lip of a jar
I hitch my poems to farmers on tractors
& plow the itch for your love
Which has scratched me into dirt that burns.


Relationships foster bizarre scenarios in the world of Maya, where opposites may attract but not necessarily coalesce harmoniously or permanently. This poem, "After the Affection of a Late Autumn," dramatizes such a relationship—short in duration, intense at times—flinging forth images that represent each stage of the doomed relationship.


The doomed will have their say, whether anyone else cares or not. The images of this poem speak in a loud voice the dissidence that mayic encounters often spew forth. Perhaps readers/listeners may find themselves here in an image or two.

First Movement: "We wore winter"
The hapless couple were together for only about a season and a half—late fall and winter, spilling into spring for one last encounter. They were very rigid with one another thus the simile of rigidity, "a blazer keeps shoulder square." And the comparison to the military—a passionless, matter-of-fact, but intense functionary of nations.

No loving couple would ever design their relationship around square shoulders and military issue. Thus this couple from the start bespeaks an anomaly, something grotesque, abnormal, but because of the willingness to describe it on the part of one of the participants, readers must assume that some sort of passion did exist between them.

Second Movement: "In the pockets of poems"
The couple—perhaps two budding poets—entertained themselves with poetry. Whether they wrote poetry, just read poetry, or both may not be entirely clear, but again since one of the hapless couple is willing to describe the relationship, the reader can infer that they are on an adventure somehow involving the creation, enjoyment, and study of the art of poetry.

One might assume that a "romantic" relationship that involved poetry would feature the softer elements of mayic existence. Hearts and flowers, long walks, whispers, exchanges of love expressions. There is no dearth of poetry for such occasions. The best poets, the most famous poets, the greatest poets have published their effusions regarding their love relationships.

But whatever poems these two have perused, they did not glean romance, heart-felt desire, and caring emotion from them. Instead they "slipped dry ice" into those pieces of art, and then instead of a bristling of love emotion, they "hung frigid at the end of line." "Frigid" is not a term lovers are acquainted with, if the love affair is one of genuine caring, love, and emotion.

Third Movement: "Where we lived"
The third movement confirms our suspicion that two did, in fact, share a dwelling for that fateful "winter." The speaker offers up the image of "icicles" in the window. Icicles are lovely winter symbols—notice the commercial Christmas ornaments.

But again for this hapless couple, these icicles only remind them that as the icicles thaw and melt, it is likely that their relationship is going to do the same thing. This icicle image therefore serves as a harbinger, a presaging, a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Fourth Movement: "In the thick of it"
The fourth movement speaks volumes about the doomed status of this relationship. One of the partners, or perhaps both, were not only engaging in this relationship, but they engaged with others as well: "a patchwork affair / Quilted us from each other." Other "affair[s]" kept them from committing to each other, even though it seemed they wanted to do such committing.

Maya is a great trickster, often leading us down certain paths, only to say, "No, this is the wrong way. Turn around and go back."

Yet the speaker testifies that she and her lover had great dreams, dreams that led them to experience a "glacier" together, where she felt the cold water of the glacier. And the two were sharing a moment in "spring" but one that could not last. The speaker compares that spring encounter to the icy waters of the glacier that were so cold it was hard to believe they could move.

That last encounter must have been after a period of separation that brought them back together for another last phase of their test: were they right together, or were they not?

Fifth Movement: "Now that summer runs at the mouth"
In the final movement, we find the speaker is now experiencing "summer." She describes it in terms of slowness. After the whirlwind late fall and winter of gallivanting through poetry, who knows where and how many times, she has settled into a slow routine.

But she still recalls the time with a fellow poet with whom she shared a deep passion: the farmer image places her in the midwest perhaps, as she nurses the "burn" from the scorching affair that she experienced during winter.

The contrast of winter and summer, of love affair and loss of love, of glacial waters and summer farms rakes the heart and mind of the speaker as she settles into a sorghum-induced sugar coma, cogitating on how to overcome this latest mayic trip from which she has just returned.

Tractor Plowing Field


© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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