A Change of Season

To Autumn
      by John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The Poet Among Us

There’s a funny person from around these parts named Zach Houston. I guess all poets are funny in a way, aren’t they? Yes, Houston is a poet. A real, working poet. And he is a jewel.

You may have seen him on the CBS News, or heard him recently on NPR.

He totes around a manual typewriter. (When was the last time you saw someone use one of those?) He sits somewhere with a fair amount of foot traffic. He sets up one of his signs, and he sits.

For a donation, he will write an original poem. Write it on the spot, banging it out clack-clackity-clack on his typewriter. And he will pull it off the roller, sign it and hand it over.

Remarkably, Houston is not just some ape with a gimmick. He is a talented and thoughtful poet. His words have sound and rhythm. His poems, at least the ones I’ve read and heard, are intriguing. They play on ideas in original ways.

Houston, in short, is as brilliant as he is ballsy.

I saw him the other day at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. He wrote something for my daughter and her school pals. I watched him as he chit-chatted with these pretty girls, joking, flirting more than a little. But he was writing all the while. And when I read it, I was more than a little surprised at the high quality of the finished piece.

It’s not every poet who would have the nerve to compete for attention at a place like this, where people come for farm-fresh produce and gourmet food. But probably not every poet feels up to that kind of challenge. Houston, however, is obviously more than equal to the task.

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