illustration of tree and abstract shapes
Paul Spella / The Atlantic

Speak plainly, said November to the maples, say
              what you mean now, now

that summer’s lush declensions lie like the lies
              they were at your feet. Haven’t

we praised you? Haven’t we summer after summer
              put our faith in augmentation.

But look at these leaving of not-enough-light:
              It’s time for sterner counsel now.

It’s time, we know you’re good at this, we’ve
              seen the way your branched

articulations keep faith with the whole, it’s time
              to call us back to order before

we altogether lose our way.               Speak
              brightly, said the cold months, speak

with a mouth of snow. The scaffolding is
              clear now, we thank you, the moon

can measure its course by you. Instruct us,
              while the divisions of light

are starkest, before the murmurs of con-
              solation resume, instruct us in

the harder course of mindfulness.
              Speak                  truly, said April. Not just

what you think we’re hoping to hear, speak
              so we believe you.

The child who learned perspective from the
              stand of you, near and nearer,

knowing you were permanent, is counting
              the years to extinction now. Teach her

to teach us the disciplines of do-less-harm. We’re
              capable of learning. We’ve glimpsed

the bright intelligence that courses through the body
              that contains us.                De  +

cidere, say the maples, has another face.
              It also means decide.