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Looking Through the Leaves

Updated on September 18, 2014

On the drives to Takoma Park I'd escape my grief

looking through the car's windows at tall suburban manors

under tall trees with broad yards smoothly groomed,

mulched garden patches, wood chips or sawdust hooking

a path from porch to driveway, men and women just shy

of middle age raking leaves into heaps

for children to leap into squealing. As we'd turn

into the hospital, I'd glimpse through shade in the distance

the woodem arch of a stream's footbridge.

Greenbelt, where my more compact house

made it hard to overlook

a bedroom newly empty, provoking me

to roam the woods instead, wouldn't let me

shake my drawn-out, incipient loss.

Bitterness reflected in autumn's chill;

a muddy sullenness in oaks' earth-ocher;

a pale dismay in the yellow

of hickories and sweetgums.

Purplish tupelos--shining in rain--combined

blue of gloom with red of incandescent rage;

rare cypresses whose heavy constant green

robed their whole length like magistrates

decreed submission to the inexorable.

Every branch transformed into

my grandfather's gnarled, skeletal arm

(fluid-swollen flesh sagging, like a pig's gut, from bone).

His dry rasp rose in the crackling of trodden leaves.

If grief always had to revisit me,

at least I could use it. Deep into night,

after study, I punched and hammered it

onto my typewriter. When the essay

won my d├ębut publication

I realized writing was a two-way mirror:

if I envisioned lives I didn't know

and perceived what the world revealed lay

under my skin, those I didn't know

could read the world in my words,

my features embossing its contours from beneath,

and something of themselves they maybe never knew was there.


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