A few, tiny patches of snow linger behind clumps of dead stiltgrass. The sun blazes through the thinning crown of an oak; I start to sneeze.
All the most supine stiltgrass has grown white fur in the night. Two nuthatches foraging at the woods’ edge react badly to my sneeze.
Like hair on a head the way the stiltgrass falls about in orderly whorls. A raven flies over, hoarse cries out of sync with its wingbeats.
Among the died-back stiltgrass below the porch, a cluster of native deer-tongue grass has emerged, pointed “tongues” just beginning to curl.
From under a hat brim ablaze with sun, I gaze out at the stiltgrass glazed with frost. Jays in the treetops. Falling acorns tick and tock.
Gold on gold: a kinglet’s crest among the birch leaves. Rust on rust: a chipmunk’s fur among rain-flattened tangles of stiltgrass.
A squadron of tulip poplar keys spinning down into the stiltgrass. From over the ridge, a locomotive’s hoarse chord.
The stiltgrass that has taken over the garden bends low with dew, and I remember: these are the “autumn grasses” beloved of Basho and Buson.
Cold and still, with a bright smudge of sun. A white-throated sparrow joins a junco in the dried stiltgrass, burrowing into it like a vole.
A titmouse scolds something hidden among blood-red barberries. The dead stiltgrass twitches with a second life like hair on a corpse.