In Pursuit of the Intangible by Oonah Joslin

Poetry Editorial Autumn 2017

I was thinking of my mother, who was born in 1914, at the beginning of WWI. She taught us to listen for what she called the Autumn bark. It’s a change in the tonal quality of sound that happens in October/November when the air becomes damp and cold and the inevitability of Winter takes hold. It is the death knell of the year. My mother had a poetic soul. She noticed every little change, each nuance in the natural flow of the seasons. Quite often they echoed a philosophy of life. I tried to explain in this haibun.

The bark whose sound is dulled by damp, whose sharp warning fails and falls, carries no threat,has no teeth. Tethered to heavy air, it sinks beneath wet turf, downed by dank, drowned in dew, cold as the incisive harvest moon. The dog from whom it issued slinks dispirited indoors, limp-tailed, to lick
old wounds.
My mother called it
The Autumn Bark. Every dog
she said, has its day.

I always think I dislike November. And then it arrives and the light slants through and underlights the trees, angles across lawns, elongates shadows, becomes so golden that it replaces all the leaves lost. The sky at this latitude pales to blues and creams and flurries with snow. November is full of special days. Armistice Day and Guy Fawkes night, Thanks Giving in America and St Andrew’s Day. Then Advent looms and at last we light candles and look forward to Christmas.

But thinking back a hundred years to all the men lost in that conflict, especially this year to those lost in the mud of Paschendaele -- all of them of every nationality, made me think forward too, to next year’s centenary of the end of that war. And I thought some of you poets, artists, story tellers and writers might have something to offer us, some story of loss, message of hope, some philosophy. Because art is the way we understand the incomprehensible. Art is the way we communicate the transient moment and the eternal truth. And there is much to say.

Oonah Joslin, Nov., 2017

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