October Again

For Louise Glück and Stan Heller

Louise Glück died on Friday, October 13, 2023, as did an old friend of Phil’s from his Denver theatre days, Stan Heller. Stan would have cracked a Friday the 13th joke if he’d had the time. In the early 70s, he had a little theatre on 17th Avenue, when the Folklore Center and Together Books, a co-op, were also on 17th, which was then a shabby hippie haven. When Stan directed a performance of readings from Archy and Mehitabel, Phil did a George Herriman-style poster for the production.

October 2023, Cheesman Park

I met Stan briefly when I went to a poetry reading at his theatre, long before I met Phil, but only got to know him in San Francisco many years later, when Phil and I visited our daughter and grandsons and Stan’d been living there for decades, his kids grown and gone too. During those annual visits we reserved a night to see Stan and Kathy, Tom and Sharn, sometimes just Stan and Tom, Denver companions from Phil’s acting, puppetry and freelance graphic design days. Bonds formed by the arts endure.

Stan Heller was 75. He knew his heart attack left that organ so damaged nothing could be done, was reconciled to his death. He had a hole in his heart. He was himself when Tom visited him, Tom said. He and Tom insulted each other wittily, as they always had. Stan wanted sushi. The nurse said, “if I don’t see it, it didn’t happen” and Tom went to get Stan sushi, which he ate with gusto.

Phil read me what he wrote on the card he sent Kathy. He wrote that Stan’s friends now had holes in their hearts too, but they would become glowing places where memories of Stan are stored. “I’d hoped to see him one more time,” he said, his eyes filled with tears.

Louise Glück was 80. I became aware of her with The Wild Iris, but her work didn’t resonate with me then. Reading her poems now, I suspect she was reconciled to her death too. In Paris Review’s remembrances of her this week, I was struck by Richard Deming’s remarks about her “October” poem, so I looked it up, after which I went for a walk in this warm, dry October we’ve been having in Colorado. By the time I returned, I held my first new poem in a while hazily in my mind. This one:

October Again

It’s my favorite time,
the brilliance of the leaves, the chilling
of the nights, blankets
back on the bed, watching fireplace flames,
hands clasped around the warmth
of a mug.

Because she just died—
I often make time for poets
after they die—
I locate her long poem “October,”
because it is October,
because someone said he never saw
a poet level a room the way she did
when she read that poem.

It’s mostly about mortality,
Louise being the cold-eyed poet she was:
“This is the light of autumn, not the light that says
I am reborn.”

I understand. Seasons can’t be separated
from their natural metaphors.
Those leaves I admire are dying.

At the balmy end of October’s third week
this year, I shed my jacket,
watch butter and gold of elm and cottonwood
let go of their own accord,
no breath of breeze,
let go a few at a time,
fall straight down,
in grace.



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12 Responses to October Again

  1. Gibson Denise says:

    Beautiful tributes paid to wonderful friends. Thank you for opening our hearts also.

  2. James Bernath says:


  3. Bob Jaeger says:

    Thanks, Pat.

  4. Jenny-Lynn says:

    Thanks, Pat, for all the layers of beauty and healing in this post. Warm hugs to you both.

  5. What a delicious poem, Pat! Glück was a wonderful poet, though “cold-eyed” (a quality Yeats would have appreciated, eh?). Among my favorites of her is “For Jane Meyers”:

    Sap rises from the sodden ditch
    and glues two green ears to the dead
    birch twig. Perilous beauty—
    and already Jane is digging out
    her colored tennis shoes,
    one mauve, one yellow, like large crocuses.

    And by the laundromat,
    the Bartletts in their tidy yard

    as though it were not
    wearying, wearying

    to hear in the bushes
    the mild harping of the breeze
    the daffodils flocking and honking—

    Look how the bluet falls apart, mud
    packets the seed.
    Months, years, then the dull blade of the wind.
    It is spring! We are going to die!

    And now April raises up her plaque of flowers
    and the heart
    expands to meet its adversary.

    Those last lines have always bowled me over and still do, every time I read them….

  6. Thad says:

    Thank you for the October poem, Pat
    — Thaddeus

  7. Thaddeus says:

    Yes, only the really, really good ones are left!

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