Your September

by | Sep 3, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

Think of September. What does September feel like to you? What does it smell like? What is its texture and temperature?

Here, in Atlanta, September is hot. Highs in the high 80s. A little cooler at night. September feels sticky and mosquito-bit. 

Septembers are not the same the world over. 

Take this poem by Jennifer Michael Hecht, “September,” which is the inspiration for today’s prompt. It’s one of my very favorite poems, and whenever I read it, I’m reminded that there are cooler Septembers somewhere. Like in these lines:

I remember you in a black and white photograph

taken this time of some year. You were leaning against a half-shed tree,

standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

A half-shed tree! No, in Atlanta the trees have not begun to shed. 

The speaker in this poem has dropped her oars. The night is cold and still. She is unhappy. She has given up without realizing it, and when she does realize, it might be too late. The wind will not carry her home.

She thinks, “Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.” She goes on to think about people (somewhere) who are “so happy.”

I happen to know that Hecht wrote this poem just days before September 11, 2001. I heard her read it at KGB Bar in NYC in 2006. She read quietly, with stillness in her voice, and the whole place was still and quiet as she read. 

I remember thinking in 2006 that the 5-year anniversary of 9/11 seemed to eclipse the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina entirely, even though New Orleans (where I’d just spent the summer) was still nowhere near recovered. And now it’s been 20 years since 9/11, and 16 since Hurricane Katrina, and none of it is ancient history. If only. 

Right now, this September, it is a little hard to picture people somewhere who are “so happy.” Every year, wildfires and hurricanes seem to become more and more synonymous with September. And now, for the second year, the sweetness of September’s association with back to school has turned bitter as infection spreads. Has September become the cruelest month? 

At least there will be apples soon. 

Prompt

Think of all your associations, old and new, with September. If you have lived in more than climate, cast back in your mind and try to capture something of all the Septembers you’ve known. 

Now write something that connects your personal state of mind (or a character’s) to the season. What is your mood like in September? Your energy? Is the season beginning to change where you live? Are the leaves falling yet? Is it still and quiet? 

September offers a little bit of freshness as far as seasonal subject matter. It’s a month to traverse, to get from the distinction of August to the very different distinction of October, not a destination month unto itself. It is not the most literary of months, not quite summer and not quite harvest. That blankness of association, of reference and classical symbolism, leaves space enough to play, to write, for you, alongside Hecht’s still and quiet slip of a poem.