Excerpt: The Importance of Autumn by Lew Welch

Summer in San Francisco. We will continually complain about the weather, the lack of sun and the milky sky. Autumn’s when the days are really perfect here, so we look forward to October’s heat wave, to Mama Nature’s confetti, with a poem by Lew Welch from Ring of Bone.

“This bright-eyed bardic spirit,” writes Gary Snyder, in the book’s foreword, “Lew Welch, still wandering and singing on the back roads… will be with us a long time.” To celebrate this new edition, Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, Tom Killion, and a few surprise guests will be in town this Thursday. Join us at the SF library.

And now onto dreaming of that fiery haze of fall (in the summer)…


when that autumnal wind
busy with the rubbish of a year
divests the tree of lingering ornaments
sending them whirling with the fallen ones

when that consumptive flush
that culmination
reveals a tree of sticks
that cannot cage the wind

and ducks pass black and low
in a sky of so intense a glare
that gulls seem gray

then look closely

for in this primal light

you’ll see love walking 
with the wind pressed to her thighs

you’ll see her as she dances 
dancing counter to the whirling leaves

you’ll see her dance ‘til suddenly she
quieting the leaves

some settle on her breast and hair
one floats by — she
hits it with her hand

and vanishes 

then on a field of dark pine trees 
burst flocks of gulls


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