Saturday, 18 September 2021

The Color of Autumn

by Tobi Alfier

Autumn’s first morning is a heart drawn in frost
on her windshield, a note with a phone number
under the wiper-blade, a curious lookaround
at tool and die shops across the street,
opened early for overtime, jolly banter
from the open doorways and no one looking
her way.

She calls the number, finds he’s been watching her
since before the time change brought light
—peach and gold on her dark curls as she leaves
the gym for work that will never dispel the puzzle
of this mystery man.

A windswept brogue that gets more pronounced
with drink, he shares a house with four
tool and die mates. They tease him about
waiting for her. He gets barked at for slowing
down, it turns the whole mood south.
She knows none of this, imagines him strong,
and brave. Clean cotton shirt rolled up
highlights a brilliant tattoo of songbirds,
a pack of Marlboro Reds tucked into
the right side.

He is a left-handed artisan,
and he holds the secret of her inside—
like butter-rum candy turned over and over,
sweetness that waits to be part
of their first kiss. Strangers
that first time, just the beginning.

She’s halfway to crazy with imaginations,
and frightened, knows she’s a magnet
for strays, can’t believe for once
this might be real. He is nothing       
but good, she is uncertain she knows
what that is. A foreigner to happiness,
she lets the butter-rum dissolve without tasting,
and with hard knowledge held close
and unspoken, knows deep inside
they will always be strangers, a note
she’ll unfold again and again, the number
like cold breath, hanging in the autumn air.  

* * * * *

"The Color of Autumn" was first published in Soundings East and is part of the author's collection Symmetry: earth and sky (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2020)

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee.  Symmetry: earth and sky was published by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Grit & Grace was published by Orchard Street Press (March, 2021). She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

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