Scott Cairns: Early Frost

Frosty morning (2018)

Early Frost
By Scott Cairns

This morning the world’s white face reminds us
that life intends to become serious again.
And the same loud birds that all summer long
annoyed us with their high attitudes and chatter
silently line the gibbet of the fence a little stunned,
chastened enough.

They look as if they’re waiting for things
to grow worse, but are watching the house,
as if somewhere in their dim memories
they recall something about this abandoned garden
that could save them.

The neighbor’s dog has also learned to wake
without exaggeration. And the neighbor himself
has made it to his car with less noise, starting
the small engine with a kind of reverence. At the window
his wife witnesses this bleak tableau, blinking
her eyes, silent.

I fill the feeders to the top and cart them
to the tree, hurrying back inside
to leave the morning to these ridiculous
birds, who, reminded, find the rough shelters,
bow, and then feed.

Scott Cairns, “Early Frost” from The Translation of Babel (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Scott Cairns.

17 thoughts on “Scott Cairns: Early Frost

  1. Hi Fellow Imonkers.
    I am home from hospital and doing OK.
    My daughter has been a tower of strength.
    Thank God for her.


  2. It has been frosty here in northern California since before Thanksgiving. We had one good shower in November, but otherwise it’s been dry and the forecast is for more dry. Please pray for rain for us, without flood or other calamity, and that our drought would be relieved.

    I somehow missed yesterday’s post, but got to it today and left a couple of comments and a link, if anyone’s interested.

    How about an email index for after the blog retires? We give permission to Chaplain Mike to send a list with the email addresses of the regulars who are amenable to communicating with one another, and he sends to the regulars who ask for it. Think about it.



  3. The great cloud which hung, not only over London, but over the whole of the British Isles on the first day of the nineteenth century stayed, or rather, did not stay, for it was buffeted about constantly by blustering gales, long enough to have extraordinary consequences upon those who lived beneath its shadow. A change seemed to have come over the climate of England. Rain fell frequently, but only in fitful gusts, which were no
    sooner over than they began again.

    The sun shone, of course, but it was so girt about with clouds and the air was so saturated with water, that its beams were discoloured and purples, oranges, and reds of a dull sort took the place of the more positive landscapes of the eighteenth century. Under this bruised and sullen canopy the green of the cabbages was less intense, and the white of the snow was muddied.

    But what was worse, damp now began to make its way into every house–damp, which is the most insidious of all enemies, for while the sun can be shut out by blinds, and the frost roasted by a hot fire, damp steals in while we sleep; damp is silent, imperceptible, ubiquitous. Damp swells the wood, furs the kettle, rusts the iron, rots the stone.

    But the change did not stop at outward things. The damp struck within. Men felt the chill in their hearts; the damp in their minds. In a desperate effort to snuggle their feelings into some sort of warmth one subterfuge was tried after another. Love, birth, and death were all swaddled in a variety of fine phrases. The sexes drew further and further apart. No open conversation was tolerated. Evasions and concealments were sedulously practised on both sides. And just as the ivy and the evergreen rioted in the damp earth outside, so did the same fertility show itself within. The life of the average woman was a succession of childbirths. She married at nineteen and had fifteen or eighteen children by the time she was thirty; for twins abounded.

    Thus the British Empire came into existence

    Virginia Woolf, Orlando


  4. –> “pot of hot soup on the stove– homemade – no recipe exactly, but the pot is ‘filled with good’”

    The best kind of soup!!! Enjoy!


  5. pot of hot soup on the stove– homemade – no recipe exactly, but the pot is ‘filled with good’

    pie in the oven – sweet potato pie – homemade

    out to the garden (winter garden) to pick some greens for tomorrow: collard greens, always best to wait until ‘after the first frost’ to eat them according to the wisdom of the old ones

    bread machine on

    fire in the fire place

    am thankful


  6. Great poem. I live his choice of words. Season after season we step into the dark, step into the cold. Here we are again. For Imonk it is the last step into that season. We will all continue as usual with our lives with no drama but will remember this little abandoned garden that brought some salvation. Maybe there will be no more garden or maybe we will fly into a neighbor’s garden. Maybe even run into the odd Monk there.


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