The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

A Poem: The Life of a Leaf October 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel @ 8:57 pm

the leaf body
lies flat as concrete
after the rain comes hard with her fist,
white knuckled in the night.

but when morning brings the flame,
all rivers run from the leaf’s fragile veins
and it arches its bones like the back of a dancer
or a mother in grief
dry as dust
and as brittle and composed as history
without an interpreter.

can these leaves live?
can they rejoin their mother oak
upon the grace of a dew framed morning?
no, they cannot, or, at least, they have not.

what is their hope,
here beneath the growing pressure of fall,
the lungs of winter?

if it rains many times before the snow comes,
they may become mulch for the arctic seed

if it is dry, they will catch the arms
of the revolutionary wind
and be tumbled like childhood stones
or like the lips of the ocean on the hull of a ship

no leaf can choose their destiny,
can file a flight plan to spain,
or dig their heels into the local soil.
no, they will be flung or dropped
and they cannot sing a protest that will be heard.

but soil or sky are not bad options, after all.
I would not be sad to be purposed for either
and in this way, i am most like a celt
longing for open road and water
while simultaneously groaning for the pleasures
of home fires and comfortable food,
for friendly faces and beautiful strangers.

I am sure some leaves have been taken up in the breath of a storm
only to be circled around the county
and slid like a secret letter down upon their mother’s feet.
o and what tears they must have wept
when their dreams of spanish sun were swung back into their stomachs
as they were replaced to the square foot of dead grass
and the memorized yelps of children escaping their parent’s dinner calls.

and I am sure,
as sure as I am about the frustrated traveler,
that some child of summach has leapt off the branch
in delirium for the historical dirt below
and joyed in the rain that would perhaps
make eternal its home, grave, and birth,
only to have the sun too quickly dry
its heavy bones
making them light as paper
and weak
as tomato water.

the gusts show their face in the fearful fluttering,
in those still left clinging to tree and trunk,
their prophecy all too clear
as to what the morning will bring
a boat the shape of the wind to carry all the unlucky into oblivion
past the horizon
to sand

today I am their heart
walking in their mache skin
filled out in their brains
with tremulous thought
and rattled muscles
I bear their burdens and they bear mine

i am their fear and their expectation
their will and their hopeless wandering
they are my story in a dry vein
and my home in a bright wind

in their lives as in mine
our compress and our wound
are often hidden from us
and show themselves only for a moment,
paradox being the better teacher


4 Responses to “A Poem: The Life of a Leaf”

  1. masonmom Says:

    That is one awesome poem! Birds in the Wall?

  2. Al Mason Says:

    This poem took me on an amazing journey – I knew not where I started, nor where I ended up – but it was something akin to the morning experience of being carried out to the car and waking many hours and miles later.

    I have not loved reading something so much since the first time I read the Waking by Theodore Roethke

    much love

  3. masonmusic Says:

    thanks guys.

    I have not read the Waking, i’d like to.

    thanks for the encouragement. i wrote it as I sat on our porch, surrounded by leaves, some flat and wet, and some dry and brittle.

    we’re getting ready to go on tour, we hope to be like the dry leaf and be carried safely from place to place.

  4. Joel, thanks for sharing this poem man. Whew!

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