Driving the coast road I see
the trees swollen with leaves,
spring green pressing the riverbank,
a few already torn from their branches,
whirled up by the wind,
not birds but glorying
in their brief moments of flight.
I remember an Ohio autumn
walking small town streets,
the smell of leaves burning,
watching an old man shove
his rake at the crackling pile,
dense smoke masking his body,
insistent sky between stripped branches,
glare of October sun without warmth.
I stood with the leaves falling
all around me like shed clothing,
or the leaves Eve used to cover
her newly discovered nakedness,
picked up a red maple leaf
the shape of a hand, veins joining
at the stem like a map of rivers,
traced them back to branches, to roots,
finding the same pattern there.
And if that was the work
a tree must do, drawing
minerals up from the soil,
loosing its bright, tiny wings
for children to pile, and jump in
and scatter again, then
I knew what my own must be.
I took that leaf back to my room;
pressed between the pages of a book
I still carry it with me, leaving
another home by the coast road
between steep draws
and the spring-swollen river,
under overhanging branches
dense with the deep green leaves.

(kz 1988)

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