Poem for August

August is ending, the kids (and husband) go back to school next week and there’s a hint of autumn in the back of the air. I’ve enjoyed writing this August poem with its very simple pleasures, and quietly intense high points.


August heat

sullen as a tired dog

falls in streams

of molten bronze.


Bronze doors bar the Roman sun,

and within,

in cool, incensed shade,

the basilica vibrates,

atwitter with voices.


Voices that stir the night hush,

scatter the gathered folds of quiet

and wound with their sharp and thoughtless shards—

sleep flees to wander the dark hills

beyond my dreams.


Dreams begin and end here,

in the half-sleep where the world is grey,

and blue horses are only wishes.


Wishes shoot like stars

in this sky

that spreads overhead

with speckled wings.


Wings, if I had them,

would carry me

on the back of the west wind

away from the setting sun.


Sun in my eyes

parches my throat

and drips, honey-sticky

from my fingers.

Shade slips away—mirage shimmer.


Shimmer, dragonfly,


dip dainty feet in the dwindling stream

where wood pigeons drink.


Drink the silver water, love,

that flows from the hidden source,

and wish for soft hands to hold your face,

soft lips that whisper words of love,

and a life that walks in step

to the pulse of my heart.


Heart is where the home is,

curled about in warmest dark,

furred and feathered

and safe from all harm.


Harm not the land we walk upon,

the water that glitters in its rushy bed,

the air that shimmers in the heat of noon,

for we are only visitors on this blue sphere,

our little lives rounded by dreaming sleeps.


Sleeps the sun, sleeps the moon,

while shadows shift and grow,

and night comes into its own.

Is this how it will be,

when the world rolls into the dark,

a world of frozen shadows,

at the last?


Last night the stars were falling,

drifting from their anchorage

in the shallows of the night,

drawn to some rumoured wonder

below the rim of the sky.


Sky with late summer clouds

that cool the air and hide the sun,

a shadow of what is to come.


Come with me and watch the stars

that litter the floor of the ocean sky

as they fade and die in the daylight swell

of the dark, celestial, flowing tide.


Tide and time

flow unceasing

until the last night falls

and Beithíoch snuffs out the stars

and closes the fiery door.


Door that stands open

to the starry sky

is the one I will gladly pass

with no regrets.


Regrets are for the undecided

who walk with one eye forever on the past,

their feet tread unseen flowers,

their eyes miss the stooping falcon.


Falcon with the yellow eye

look the other way, don’t see

the young rabbit’s excited leap

from burrow into bright day world

this tremulous first time.


Time flows

though the stream runs dry,

the leaves fall

and the birds fly.


Fly south though the sun shines, wise oriole,

and the August heat is fierce,

for the nights will cool,

the wind will change,

and storms buffet the distant sea.


Sea beckons,

so far, so empty,

with no landing place for feathered foot.

I watch these tiny darts of courage,

swallows skimming the river,

hunters building strength

for the so far, so empty,

and I am filled with awe.


Awe-struck, I stand

beneath the coping of the sky

and listen to the hunting owl

chasing a falling star.


Stars grow and thicken,


layer on layer of light,

a night garden,

racing to a boundary

that is not there.


There is a corner

of this wilderness not wild

this tame jungle of bramble and fox-tail,

where the shadows that tremble

are not darkness

but feathered wings.


Wings that flutter

in the dark of the hedge

fill the shadows with movement,

the air with the tremor of life.


Life sings in these poplars

with the wind’s voice

and the voices of the birdfolk.

A buzzard cries, high and plaintive

for her lost fledgling.


Fledgling child

ready to fly

but for the winds of the world,

hover a while,

the sea is wild.


Wild grows the meadow

in this end of summer,

parched and thick with crickets,

cracks yawn,

calling autumn rains.


Rains swell the fallen seeds

a million millions

waiting for rebirth.

I long already for the spring.


Spring lingers

in every acorn that greens and ripens,

calling another spring,

remembering that first birth

an oak tree’s life ago.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

19 thoughts on “Poem for August”

  1. Glorious, Jane. What a lovely tribute to August.
    I missed a few when you posted them, but I love that last verse about the acorn and oak.
    Most of the schools around here start next week. Some already started. For the first time, Philadelphia schools opened early (before Labor Day, which is Monday), but then because of the heat wave this past week, they had to dismiss early for several days. Summer doesn’t want to leave. 🙂

  2. Bronze is delicious but molten bronze is ecstatic. In the bronze age they made their swords with it but they did not have the cold edge of steel.

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