‘Down in August’

I wrote this poem in the mid-’70s, when I was trying to find my way down the writing path. I published it in my first pamphlet (chapbook) of poems. It’s raining tonight, but we’ve had some fine summer days and sundowns this season. This is typical early-stage writing that comes from wanting to put everything into words. I was big into color adjectives at this point. And there’s a tendency in this stage to seize the obviously dramatic subjects, like nature and love, and try to describe them your own way—to find a shred of freshness in the images and words that you choose. The challenge is to see the drama and beauty in places and experiences that don’t have drama and beauty written all over them already. Sometimes the subject is plain or ugly. That’s okay, too. I learned that as I worked at it. Yes, I had a Ford Pinto, a plain brown one that my folks bought new for me in 1972 when I started commuting to college. I think it cost about $1,900 new. I drove it all over New England and kept it for a long time. Think what you want about the Pinto, at least it wasn’t a Chevette, both of which made TIME’s list of the 50 worst cars of all time. My Pinto died when the engine caught fire on its last trip to the mechanic. They were notorious for exploding gas tanks because of the weak protection in the rear.—PM


Down in August


Into the Pinto to ride down the sunset.

Driving west: smoky rose and mauve swirls in the pale blue.

The drama of color, rich as Persia.

Turning east, I see how the hills throw a verdant glow on the indigo.

Over my shoulder, cloud-teams of pink and blue horses have rolled to China.

Rounding a curve on a back country road,

I hear the solid singing of a billion crickets working the black grass.

Evening’s pure navy, with star charts up.


—Paul Marion (c) 1976