When I began crafting this poem, I fully intended to mimic the style of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales: “When that August with his beastly heat…” However, I found the set meter and rhyme too restricting for the random wanderings of a father and his young sons up and down the stream that flows along our backyard. If form fits function, the regular rhythm of Chaucer fails to capture the frolicking freedom of our hours in Wolf Creek.
Nor do I mean to suggest with the title that what I experienced that Sunday afternoon in August was all but a dream, and that I had “but slumbered here / While these visions did appear” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1, Lines 416-417). Rather, in this case, the word “dream” should link with the word “idyll” in the poem. This pastoral scene that I capture in these few lines of poetry is the ideal afternoon for me (except it lacks a nap). As we have fought for Sabbath in our lives, working to make a hard stop on the week more intentional, it’s encounters like this that fuel my desire to keep fighting for rest.
Here on this first day of autumn, let me take you back to the midpoint of summer when the heat can be oppressive and the sound of the cicadas deafening. Although autumn is my favorite season of the year – think of the changing leaves, the apples, the pumpkin pie – the allurements of summer remind me to savor every moment I’m given and every season of life. That’s why, before heading off to my high school open house tonight, I went out back in my dress clothes to play soccer with my three youngest sons. “The kingfisher rushes downstream” – always. Don’t miss it!
A Midsummer Afternoon’s Dream
Vincent H. Anastasi - 2021 When summer solstice's half-life's spent and the cicadian rhythm of an idyll August afternoon lures one to rest, I settle, momentarily on the lawn, halfway between the house and Wolf Creek, a matter of intrigue for bees and ants whose delicate feet I cannot feel exploring these hills and fields of flesh. More insistent than summer's sultry voice, my sons sing me into the stream where, shod in water-shoes, we plumb the shallow depths, unsettling crayfish who brush our ankles in protest as they jettison past. Hours wash away as we seek to resurrect the past from the creek bed's silty grave, our open treasure chest. We are Naomi Shihab Nye's trashpickers, kneeling to the nearly intact China saucers, rejoicing in the discovery of each milk glass canning lid and the blue glass telegraph insulator that "finds its first kingdom" in our unfinished kitchen. We gather the broken pieces of glass in a bucket and toss the sunken branches over the downed tree on the opposite bank before hauling our prized soda bottles up the stone steps to our backyard. I pause to listen to water laughing through our dams' imperfect rock walls and watch the current carrying away a few premature fallen leaves as my Sunday settles into sunset and a kingfisher rushes downstream.