Pure of any mortal mote
___and boundless (but for sight):
The deep dry sky of Autumn
___inscribes the shadows bright.

(For what could dusty leaves conceal
___from such an endless eye?
What crackled branch could hide the earth
___from all-consuming sky?)

Replete with light, devoid of warmth:
___a strong and wayward king.
His tirade… tires, bruised to black
___and homeless winds break in.

And then the people mourn his sleep
___and wait as candles quake.
Blankets huddle shoulders
___as they pray the king to wake,

and waking, chasing night he comes
___to light the shaded places.
Stones will drink his meagre heat
___and men will lift their faces.


Joe Spring lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information please visit www.joespringwrites.com.

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10 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Dear Mr. Spring —

    Your approach is unusual. I find your concepts pleasing, but your language makes the day somewhat foggy. Would not shoulders huddle blankets rather than the reverse?” Who is the “king? ? The sun? Or God himself?

    All in all an intriguing poem.

    • Joe Spring

      Hello Sally,

      Thank you for your engagement with my poetry. I wrote this during our Autumn about 6 months ago. The description might be somewhat different from the moist and colourful Autumns that are experienced in the Northern hemisphere – this poem was my attempt to capture something of the dryness, the dustiness, and the extremity of temperatures between day and night. I’ll be replying to our other peers below, with some further details of the poem’s context. As for the king, it is the Autumn daylight sky itself.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    When writing heptameters (which, as in the poem here, are usually broken in half), one has to be careful that the divisions of the lines are consistent.

    There need to be four stresses in the first half, and three in the second. There are two places in this poem where the lines are improperly divided. The first is in line 3, where “The deep dry sky of Autumn” only has three stresses. The second is in line 15 (“Blankets huddle shoulders”), where the same problem occurs.

    Line 15 can be easily fixed, using Sally Cook’s suggestion, and by placing the word “as” at its end:

    “Shoulders huddle blankets, as
    they pray the king to wake.”

    Line 3 is harder to fix, as another syllable is needed to make the heptameter line complete. I’d try this:

    The deep dry sky’s autumnal wind
    inscribes the shadows bright.

    • Joe Spring

      Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for your critique. I really appreciate the specific attention you have provided. Indeed I had not thought on the division of the heptameter, ; moving the “as” will sort out the distribution of the stresses for line 15. I was grouping by phrasing, which is perhaps not right for classical structure. The root of line 3’s troubles is my musical background and the use of a “rest” instead of a “note”.

      I’ll consider how to restructure and fill the gaps.

  3. Mark Stone

    Joe, Hello. I only have a few small comments. 1. In the first stanza, how is it that “shadows” are “bright”? I think of shadows as dark. 2. Do you need the parentheses at the beginning and end of the second stanza? I’m not sure what they add. 3. In line 8, I don’t care for the omission of “an” between “from” and “all.” You could fix it by changing lines 7-8 to something like:

    How could the earth be hidden from
    an all-consuming sky?

    4. I don’t understand the need for the ellipsis in line 11. 5. Since you have a perfect rhyme in every other stanza, I would find one for the third stanza as well. Plus, I cannot read “winds break in” without thinking about “breaking wind.” 6. I think of “huddle” as an intransitive verb, and you are using it as a transitive verb. Perhaps: “Blankets cradle shoulders…” or “Blankets hug our shoulders…” 7. I assume that “they” in line 16 refers back to “people.” However, my first inclination was to think it refers back to “blankets” or “shoulders.” 8. It is an interesting, intriguing poem, with a strong sense of meter and ambitious imagery. I wish I could see how it develops.

    • Joe Spring

      Hello Mark,

      Thanks for your numbered feedback – it will make my reply quite orderly too!
      1. This is an intentional description, which is echoed later in the poem, to show how the Autumn sky here lights everything – the dry twigs and leaves have no hope of blocking its pervasive light. Further to this, the direct light is almost too washed out, and it’s in the shaded places that full detail can be seen best. The edges are brightly inscribed. It is likely very different in the Northern hemisphere and in wetter climates, but this is truly what it’s like in Johannesburg (6 months ago), particularly after the rainy season (Summer) did not deliver much rain at all.
      2. The parenthesis are an exposition of the first point really, to make sense of the apparent contradiction – truly there’s no escaping the brightness of Autumn days, no concealment when all the trees are shrivelling.
      3. Maybe 🙂 I prefer the omission though, as it turns the sky from a plain old noun into an oppressive force, akin to “light”.
      4. The ellipsis is to slow it down and change direction.
      5. Yes this rhyme was troublesome, and I will likely be mulling that one over. They were meant more to be as criminals in anarchy – not breaking wind!! Oh that made me laugh. Thanks, I had not thought of it.
      6/7. Hm. It is intransitive, isn’t it? I meant it to emphasise how the freezing night makes everything grasp for warmth, so while I intended “they” to refer to the people, it could continue the personification of the blankets and the candles too. I need a “tight” verb, something to emphasise that this is no casual draping of a shawl, but a really pervasive cold. (It’s worth noting that our houses are not really built for cold, so when it’s cold outside it’s cold inside too.)
      8. Thank you. I find that the last stanza is my favourite, as it brings the poem full-circle to the daylight again, which though meagre in its heat is still much better than the dry chill of night.

      Likely after all the above input, it will develop further, and I thank you and all other commenters for spending your time and attention on it!

  4. David Hollywood

    All assessments aside as to style and construction and requirement for changes, I happened upon a simpler level – to simply enjoy your poems sentiments!


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