There is October in every November and there is November in every December! All seasons melted in each other’s life! ― Mehmet Murat ildan
I have come to regard November as the older, harder man’s October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer’s death as winter tightens its grip. – Henry Rollins
After a long conversation this fall concerning the personal and political, we have returned to more seasonal subjects, sharpening our writing skills by staying in the present moment, acutely describing what we see, and letting our minds flood with names and memories.
We read, “November for Beginners” by the indomitable and brilliant Rita Dove though, when it comes to November, no one in our circle this week is a beginner. We explored what we let the world call us and what we call this time. We discussed traditions and weather patterns and we taught each other new words for ice and whisper (rime, susurration).
In the pieces below, you will read true and personal accounts of names and seasons, each more personal than the next. Read all the way to the end and you will be rewarded by this week’s found poem – all our words woven together to leave our impression behind, a mirrored impression of what November has done for us.
My mother’s name is Dawn.
My father’s name is Larry.
My sister Megan was born in 1990.
I was born October 1991.
My father named me Katelyn
after his oldest brother Clayton.
My middle name Louise after my great grandma.
My daddy called me Weezy.
He would pick me up in his arms
and say, “Pop goes my Weezy.”
The smile was on his face
was the highlight of all my days,
‘til one day mom took me away.
I was so broken,
so much self-loathing,
a confused 7-year-old,
going through the emotions:
betrayal, abandonment, fear, loneliness.
What can I say? Daddy was my king
and I his princess.
Lord knows I loved him so very much.
He tried to be there for me.
Mom made things so difficult,
always putting me in the middle,
as my father faded from my life.
No one called me Weezy anymore.
And as I grew into my teenage self,
people took to calling me Katie in its place.
No one in high school really liked me.
I was angry all the time,
would be a bitch to guys.
I didn’t want to be bothered.
I just wanted to left alone to the sorrow inside
to drown in the pool of anger surrounding me.
I started cutting at age 16.
By 18 I was dating a guy who beat me
and cheated on me!
He called me Kate.
In now 26,
my father died when I was 19.
Suicide, my mother and I don’t really talk
and my sister and I grew apart.
My brother lives at home still at age 21.
I had a kid at 21,
didn’t want to be a mom.
The father of my kid was extremely boring,
so I left him for my ex
who I never got over to begin with.
He calls me Katelynn,
treats me like a woman.
I tied my soul to this man
when I was 24 years old.
He makes me better,
but here I am in trouble,
incarcerated for letting this anger control me.
I wonder if I’ll ever fully recover,
All I can do is go on with life,
try to be better,
for my husband and child!
I rise in a light that is already leaving, tender shoots hardened in the cold, planted always in the wrong season, I struggle to grow, thrive, live, refusing to bow to the winter of despair. No hothouse, my chill gray window allows little light to warm my first leaves. The draft chills my roots and slows my feet, weighing down this stately dance with snow.
NOVEMBER – BITTER
Vermont is a place very much for people who live elsewhere and complain that they miss seasons. November is that season I would call Bitter. The rain sluices down without the benefit of leaves to slow it with barriers of joyfully colored confetti. The cold builds, layer upon layer, icing the veins of dimming all joy, tearing away with knives of frosting wind , bludgeoning with frozen rain and first snow falls. They don’t stick, but instead churn the ground to a half-frozen morass to suck a boots and make driveways near impassable. Within Bitter, however, are beauties tourists never see—they flee when there are neither leaves nor snow. Bitter plays host, instead, to silent woodsmoke mornings of frozen fog gilding weeds and bushes with a rime of diamonds to glitter in the morning’s stillborn light. Bitter bids goodbye to full-throated warbling of birds and reveals the always of the raven’s steady croak, the reminder that he and me, we hardy few, we band together and huddle down in the ebon cloaks to survive the worst these wretched hills and mountains can throw at us. Finer music, I think, than the mindless joy of fair weather feathered friends. Bitter coats the roads with a slick of diamonds, giving us cause for caution, for learning to heed ourselves and our surroundings. Bitter gives us gratitude that we can go the hell inside where soft humans belong. Bitter hardens us, keeps the surprise of the killing winter from killing us. Bitter is a brief vacation for us between the goddamn nuisance of leaf peepers stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures of trees and the godforsaken snow bums and snow bunnies up from wherever the hell it is that doesn’t have snow driving poorly and getting lost in the woods. Bitter is quiet, a gray and sober time of contemplation, a sensible finish to the seasons of activity, a rest before rushing headlong into the stupidity, frivolity, and buying frenzy of American holidays. Bitter is grass barely holding on to green, in name only glittering like a spill of diamonds across baize, a velvet roulette table of glorious wealth with not a penny spent. Bitter is stocking up on salt and shovels and thinking about finally buying a damned snowblower because the Almanac says we’re supposed to get so much snow this year…
Summer’s death and winter’s grip,
almost behind us, the shorts and tank top days.
Soon the sweaters, huts and darker grays.
Summer’s death and winter’s grip.
No longer will you feel your fingertips.
No more long summer swims.
Now the days will get cold and grim.
No more summer kites will fly
but in the winter, the snowflakes fly.
No longer will your shorts dance.
You will be doing the snow angel dance.
Summer’s death and winter’s grip.
O how it’s fun to take this season trip!
is angry all the time, drowning
in a pool of anger
or ties itself to the soul of a man or smells
of peppermints and stewed fruit or floods
the nostrils with memories or an organ blast of traffic
or calls you in cold slices or parts
the curtains and makes introductions
or is getting Chinese takeout again
or warns “no playing” though it seems unnecessary
or hollers the “no” in November
or treats us like women
or knows what you were called in
your mother’s soft burrow
or kisses the trees the city planted
or is nearly unbearable when paired with “sweet”
or weighs down this stately dance with snow
or does the snow angel dance
or scares away the evil spirits
or makes a rime of diamonds
or hardens us
or fades, like everything,
and we go the hell inside
where soft humans belong.
November: the only old bastard still standing
who gets to call us that anymore.