“November” by Heather Altfeld

Heather Altfeld


It’s strange, here, waiting for the last of them to be counted,
surreal to think of them shoveled into piles like old snow,
cast out into the world over land and sea to seek, as it were,
their fortunes. I imagine them in the late terrible light
of those rooms, lingering in the stink of yesterday’s lunch
and the air tepid with breath held back by masks,

talking amongst themselves about the ludicrous folly
of humans, who should be tallying the tadpoles
who grew into frogs this year and the number who died
of fungi blotched on the nose, how we ought to jam
the phone lines demanding a raise in the minimum age
for kindness, a cut in the statutory limitations on human cruelty,

a referendum to mortar our cities
from the endless migration of sadness and despair.
Where is the measure in favor of clouds
not yet dreamed or stolen by the sun?
Who will root for the tulips we’ve planted so dumbly
in the dry crud of the earth?
Call it now, for the rivers and the trees and the rocks,
call it now for the rain, who knows far better than we
how to become one fierce or gentle thing.

from Poets Respond
November 8, 2020


Heather Altfeld: “I think this poem is a collision of two kinds of waiting—both are temporally communal, which makes them particularly interesting to me–the counting of the vote, and here in California, the rain, which we are all desperate for. Both portend our immediate and distant future. And despite the critics of personification, there is something about the convergence of such energies that each ballot carries, beyond its bubbled-in dots—each arrives (hopefully) from the homes of smokers or drinkers, chewed by dogs or babies, spat on by rain or dissent, and in this way, they seem to harbor a strange sort of essence of their own.” (web)

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