“A Switch Has Been Turned Off”

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November Light

by Robert Morgan 

November light is like a dream,
no winter brightness yet, and fall’s
extraordinary tints are all
receding, gray and brown, and seem
subdued as animals asleep
in dens and hollow trees and deep
in mud beneath the pond; the lint
of thistle, milkweed, goldenrod
lies white as frost and opalescent
on dying grass, at side of road.
A switch has been turned off: a lull
of outer space and inner world.
This light is like a spiritual
heard underground or from horizon,
Gregorian yet contemporary too,
a promise that some tasks are through.

from Terroir
Penguin Poets, 2011

I know very well the kind of light that Robert Morgan describes in his poem. Once November rolls around, and we’ve turned back the clocks for Daylight Saving Time, it does seem as if “a switch has been turned off,” and we begin to enter an “inner world” laid bare in us by the extra hours of darkness. The quality of this “spiritual” light seems ancient too, “Gregorian,” as Morgan puts it, but also timeless, and there are moments when it seems to rise up like a song from the ground, from “dying grass” and “milkweed” whose seed pods send their “lint” onto the wind. I don’t always enter this inwardness, this season-long “lull,” willingly: I struggle with the loss of light at evening, and with my own resistance to change that returns full-force at this time of year. Particularly when the outer world seems subsumed in darkness and confusion, as it does now, the coming winter invites each of us to hibernate in our own way, to look hard into our hearts and minds and take stock of what we find there.

—James Crews