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Looking Through the Leaves
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 début 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.