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Autumn Sketch

October 1, 2020 by

The First of October is poet Jane Clement’s birthday. To celebrate, here is one of her poems, surely written on a blustery October day.

Autumn Sketch

The wind in the dry standing corn is the sound of many waters.
(This is the season for remembering,
for gathering in memories like flowers before frost.)
Over the mountains the dark clouds of birds wheel and vanish
and the air stills slowly with the beat of wings
in the light no longer.
(This is the season for what is over and done with, finished.
Hold no promise in your hands. Look to the earth no longer,
nor to the sky, for the snows gather.)
The wind through the standing corn is the murmur of many waters;
look for frost on the hillside and milkweed pods
smoking along the roads.
(This is the season for remembering;
blow on your hearth’s embers, and ask for a little while
no new springing.)

Autumn ArtworkCornfield at Ewell by William Holman Hunt. Public domain.

Jane Tyson Clement (October 1, 1917 – March 21, 2000) was a poet, author, and playwright.

Jane grew up in Manhattan and, though she lived there until she was nineteen, she was never truly at home in the city but preferred Bay Head, New Jersey, where the family owned a summer house. Bay Head’s windswept shore drew her back year after year: “There was something eternal about it that was always a rock and an anchor for me.”

She graduated from Smith College in 1939, became a teacher, and married Robert Allen Clement, a Quaker attorney and fellow pacifist. Despite her privileged background, Jane was disturbed by the injustices she saw around her and yearned to do something constructive with her life, to move beyond the “frivolous, self-centered side of my nature … and to do something – anything – about the unfair treatment of workers, the hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few.”

Eventually this search led her to God, though first through disillusionment and confusion. In 1954, the Clements joined the Bruderhof, where Jane taught school, raised seven children, and, through her poetry and fiction, continued her search for wholeness and truth.

Read excerpts from The Heart’s Necessities: A Life in Poetry: – and enjoy the music videos of artist Becca Stevens, who turned several of Jane Clement’s poems into striking songs.

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