November is the Rodney Dangerfield of months. It gets no respect, no love. There are no great songs about November. Poems about November are always dreary things -- odes to cold wind, fallen leaves, gray skies, death, etc.
I decided to see if I could find anything good written about November, because I'm a nerd at heart and that's the way I roll. (Deal with it.)
I went to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and found November getting kicked around like a rented mule by various literary lights through the centuries, from D.H. Lawrence to Thomas Hood to Sir Walter Scott:
November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear ...
And in 1562, Richard Grafton (you remember ol' Richard, don't you?) penned these immortal words:
Thirty days hath November ...
Now there's a man who went out on a limb, poetically speaking. The best thing he could find to write about November was that it had 30 days! Sadly, a few years after his death, the poem was amended to the more familiar "Thirty days hath September ... " Now they've got all those sexy months -- September, April, May -- up there at the top.
Like I said, November gets no respect.
Which makes the following poem -- which first appeared in a little book by Molly Peacock called Raw Heaven -- all the more remarkable:
Novembers were the months that began with No.
"Oh no." They died in embers. Above were
V's of geese in skies lit from these low
Even fires. The fires of fall were
Mirrors for the feelings I felt before
Being. I'm telling you now I feel I
Exist for the first time! Neither the bareness nor
Roughness demoralize -- I realize I
See much clearer what leafless branches show.
It's a zen-like puzzle-box of a poem. You can read it over and let the words slide around and small tricks and secrets reveal themselves. I found it comforting somehow. And I'm sure it's the best thing ever written about November. You could look it up.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor
Oh would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us. — Robert Burns
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the line above in response to seeing a louse on a high-born lady's bonnet at church. The point being, of course, that while we might think we're looking pretty good, someone else might be noticing a flaw we've overlooked.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...
Well, they ain't never going my way.
One runs at midnight and the other one
Running just 'fore day. — Muddy Waters