“Fall” was first performed at a city council meeting on 10/23/17, where Susan Lilley was named the City of Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. 


for Orlando

As I left the post office the other day,
a friendly tourist, family in the car,
pulled over for advice
on Asian restaurants within a one-mile radius.
I fanned myself with a useless L.L. Bean
winter catalogue as we discussed his options.
He said, You must miss the seasons.
The seasons? We have seasons.
Oh, yes, he smiled. Summer and summer.

O visitor from somewhere cold and gray.
Do you not see the decorative gourds of autumn
around you? Do you not smell the pumpkin spice
in the coffee, the muffins, the air freshener?
We are passing through the aromatic
doorway of fall as we speak. And we check the
tropical disturbance reports only once a day.

Because as we embrace autumn with all our
sweaty hearts, we blow a bitter kiss
to hurricane season, also known as season
of the blue tarp, the ear-blasting generator,
the season of Who Has Power, hauling tree limbs,
and Jesus, take the wheel.

We have winter too, with snowflakes in classroom
windows, menorahs and mangers,
and twinkle lights in the palm trees.
And on special days, when the temperature
plunges below 65, we have sweaters. And boots.
We have gorgeous camellias that wait for winter,
a million buds among glossy dark leaves
dreaming of their own coming majesty.

In early spring, camellias give up their glory
to azaleas, their masses of blooms
giving grace to the apartment complex,
the mansion, the bungalow,
the shopping plaza, the highway median.
In spring the oaks finally
rain down acorns; they crunch
under our feet on brick streets.
Then May fills up with magnolia light, and crepe myrtles follow,
those tall, generous ladies of pink and purple and white.

We have seasons of the soul, too. We feed the hungry
in times of feasting. We build, we gather what is needed,
we remember the lonely in times of celebration.
Under the same sun, we are fearful, we are happy,
we are grieving, we are grateful.

We have seasons of tears, of loss, of how can it happen here.
Seasons when every sentence begins “If we can get through this.”
Of holding the hands of strangers in a park and pushing forth
the light in us, pushing through clouds of pain
to the other side. We are flanked by angels.
We have Pride season with its fierce, hopeful rainbows.

We have seasons all right. Termite season, mosquito season, football season, soccer season, tax season, Magic season, prom season, rainy season, campaign season, protest season, flying palmetto bug season,
and alligator mating season.

But back to autumn, which may not look like scenes in
children’s books, with their apple-picking and piles of yellow
and red under the maple trees.

Our season is more subtle; every morning brings a new
signal of the earth’s shifting;
drive from here to the coast and see how a forest
glints more sage in the sun,
and marsh grass ripples in a haze of gold.

We know it’s fall,
not so much by the leaves,
but by the light.