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The Magic Circle


1.  Autumn


Early this morning I glanced out the window

and saw her underneath the maple tree.

She was as pale as that white gown of hers.

Hard to believe it's been a year already.

I waved.  She turned away, paused for a moment,

then walked into the mist that marked the border

between my backyard and what lay beyond.

Proserpine, I called, but she was gone.

I am convinced that this was Proserpine

and not, as Mrs. Grandison maintains,

some nut escaped from the state hospital.

All Hallow E'en approaches.  Skeletons

hang from the trees along my street and ghosts,

emboldened, haunt the front yards in broad daylight.



2. Winter


The swallows sleep beneath the river ice.

The salamanders whisper in the fire.

Hermes Trismestigus' new work is open

at one of its obscurer passages,

of which there are intolerably many.

I take a break to watch the local news.

Toward midnight, I collect my charts and go

to make my nightly survey of the heavens.

Mercifully they're still there.  One of the saddest

developments I've witnessed in my time

has been astrology's decline from science

to fortune telling of the basest sort,

its long eclipse by disciplines that measure

not meaning, now, but distance, size and mass ...

As if mere matter mattered in itself.



3. Spring


Bears wake from their long hibernation, now,

hirsute initiates with tales to tell

to those with ears to listen.  Proserpine

returns as well, and Christ.  And may not I?

The budding trees and the returning birds

figure the transmigration of the soul

so beautifully I wish that I could die

and see the world again through infant eyes.

I intimate these things to Ed, my mailman,

who nods politely.  Ed is not about

to jeopardize his Christmas tip (last year

an old tin can transmuted into gold)

regardless how much of a character

he and the other villagers may think me.



4. Summer


Little did I know when I concocted

my potion that, although one may stop time,

it is impossible to turn it back.

Youth, they say, is wasted on the young.

Perhaps I'll have a tee-shirt made that reads,

Eternal life is wasted on the old.

And yet the world is no less beautiful.

Toward evening dew collects upon the lawn,

rising again as fireflies.  Above

the white New England church a flock of swallows

copies a Greek text out in Arabic,

and in the maple trees a light breeze stirs,

sounding for all the world like water falling

distantly off the edges of the world.


Bill Coyle



2002; originally printed in The Hudson Review.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

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