James Toupin

Expectation at the Equinox

for P.A.B

For just these few uncertain days
we walk out into what appears
a second coming of the spring,
sound and color flourishing.
The plainsong of the crickets, built
up through a month of summer drought
into a monolithic din,
belittles in a public frenzy
in our suburban wood, the quiet
of amusements more domestic.

Such choruses of summer, though
soon broken on the equinox,
now join with singers of departure.
The holly bush outside our door
resounded with three singing birds
today, as we emerged from home,
which, in a fluttering of leaves,
mounted into the lucent autumn
sky and disappeared, as soon
as we came, startling, upon them.

Leaves of the dogwood, which still seems green,
last week began to fringe with brown,
and it has sprouted clusters of berries,
which, not yet more than hints of red
hidden in the rusting leaves,
will, while sustaining stranded flocks,
come to bear the burden of color
in a world reduced to framework.
Everything both shows the past
and intimates a change in nature.

The skies, broad highways of escape,
will not be less immense, song any
less capricious, or the shifting
seasons any more humane
when in April our neighborhood
emerges from its winter silence,
trees fill with sounds of homing birds,
buds unfold variety,
and, if the summer’s hopes go well,
you give birth to our first child.

If we try to make for him,
as surely we will, a house to stand
stolid against quicksilver change,
providing a familiar world
where he is kept from untoward harm,
he in time will see that we
have built around him an illusion,
framed, he will think, for our old age,
and will, in his turn, as we did, fly,
escaping into the lyric air.


James Toupin is a retired government lawyer now teaching in the law school of American University in Washington, DC. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals since he began publishing in 2008, including recently Virginia Quarterly Review (online), Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal and Canary. He is the translator of Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville on Politics and Society (University of California Press), and he is a writer on legal topics.