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SONG: SO OFTEN, SO LONG I HAVE THOUGHT, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: So often, so long I have thought of death
Last Line: The october raindrops thickened and turned to snow
Subject(s): Autumn; Japan; Seasons; Fall; Japanese

So often, so long I have thought of death
That the fear has softened. It has worn away.
Strange. Here in autumn again, late October,
I am late too, my woodshed still half empty,
And hurriedly I split these blocks in the rain,
Maple and beech. South three hundred miles
My mother lies sterile and white in the room
Of her great age, her pain, while I myself
Have come to the edge of the "vale." Strange.
Hurrying to our ends, the generations almost
Collide, pushing one another. And in twilight
The October raindrops thicken and turn to snow.

Cindy stacks while I split, here where I once
Worked alone, my helper now younger than I
By more years than I am younger than my mother --
Cindy, fresh as the snow petals forming on this old
Goldenrod. Before her, it was war-time. In my work
I wondered about those unarmed Orientals swarming
Uphill into the machine guns, or those earlier
Who had gone smiling to be roasted in the bronze
Cauldrons, or the Cappadocian children strewn --
Strewn, strewn, and my horror uncomprehending. Were they
People, killers and killed, real people? In twilight
The October raindrops thickened and turned to snow.

I understand now. Not thoughtfully, never;
But I feel an old strange personal unconcern,
How my mother, I, even Cindy might vanish
And still the twilight fall. Something has made me
A man of the soil at last, like those old
Death-takers. And has consciousness, once so dear,
Worn down like theirs, to run in the dim
Seasonal continuance? Year by year my hands
Grow to the axe. Is there a comfort now
In this? Or shall I still, and ultimately, rebel,
As I had resolved to do. I look at Cindy in the twilight.
In her hair the thick October raindrops turn to snow.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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