These two poems are sections from a longer poem titled “To Spring,” in which the poet really sketches the whole panoply of the seasons so they unscroll before our eyes. These poems remind me of the clear vision and unfolding depth of Chinese poetry, and of those sketches the great masters make, in which so much more is revealed than the lines at first suggest. A single gesture, a leaf falling, almost miraculously creates a larger sense of time that includes all the seasons—from green beginnings to autumnal and winter-bare trees. Then there is the sketch of the old woman, perhaps a kind of blur that makes the world she passes through even more vivid and real. She is both unrecognizable as the people in the mentioned picture, and also the focal point walking us through the scene, and maybe the season itself, or the sketch of someone who knows how to be autumnal, how to live within the changes.

James Brasfield’s third book of poems, Cove, was published by LSU Press in 2023. He lives in Belfast, Maine.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry editor


(from) To Spring        


    From a certain point on, there is no more turning back.

                That is the point that must be reached.

                         —Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks


            A green leaf falls before the mountain

            woodlands yellow. What sober cheer

            to think ahead about the stronger winds,

            the leaves’ high pitch of hues . . .

            The creek no matter the month

            flows clear and cold. I catch a flash


            of cardinal wing—that leaf now a veil

            upon the current follows the bend,

            is gone. There must be others in descent,


            green leaves before the bare trees in solitude,

            before all leaves on the creek’s

            crimped current weave between the stones.


            The blue cast of dusk thickens

            with the scent of night from wind-shaken leaves,

            their stems cleaving to summer . . .


            birds abandoning their nests to autumn—

            at the ridgetop, the sun, the strike of a match,

            burns to black.



            Creek water flows in sunlight.


            The old woman walks through the meadow,

            her hands held loosely behind her . . .


            Autumn set free so many leaves,

            then snow raised from woods a natural palace—


            I thought of the blue tint of a picture

            of people unrecognizable

            in snowfall on the Charles Bridge in Prague.


            But here, the mountains went on for miles,

            labyrinths of smoke.


            Frost, like chalk dust, melted from the slopes . . .


            Meadow grass shivers in April wind.


            Shadows of clouds change

            the light and the mountains change.


Image at top: Williamson Brasfield, photograph.