It is November, not October
when we’re apt to recall the story of leaves
in the northeast, when after wind, sun,
and rain have taken leaves off trees, onto
lawns and sidewalks, into nooks and gutters,
that metaphor becomes manifest, maple leafs
die to make the medium of growth, a season of
drawn drapes announces another spring greening.
Once you fall into a pile of leaves
like a convention of yellow, brown,
and ecru people selling securities
to buoy your rise among siblings,
peers, and early-to-die parents while
still in school, not stillborn, still – yet, as
eternal to a schoolboy as flame to a candle alight.
Intense fracas echoes along the corridors of recollection,
the ringing endorsement one September day, with a short stack
of records, re-configured phonograph, six pack of beer, pack of smokes;
in retrospect, in the rearview mirror as distant as fifty years, the same damn
music rings true today as it did during the days of rage, the days that each dawned
with enough latent potency to blow the lid off the joint, to expose all theology as phony
in the repercussion of one platonic bomb, on homecoming day, when oak trees
like sentinels in the urban forest where burnished leaves mirrored irrelevant allusions.
Leaves are enough to make an ungrown boy dawdle, leaves that have fallen from a panoply of trees, skinny ribbed leaves from three story tall elm trees in the decades before they’d be felled because of dutch elm disease, pushed by soft winds to form tiny hills where stone walls ringing the front yards of old homes met the dark grey slate paving stones kids skipped along, pedaled plump-tired bicycle across, and occasionally skinned a bare knee upon. maple, beech, and cottonwood trees too added leaves to shoe rustle. while aflame in their trees, young eyes were drawn elsewhere, never attracted by abstract notions of “going out in a blaze of glory,” youth mainly a metaphor-free zone, thank god!
willow trees get kids’ attention because they weep; it is their inability to project anything like the haughty self-assurance of a child’s mother or father, who, when truly saddened (whether or not for the inevitability of cold, awful death) don’t get even a little teary-eyed, but suck it up and put on a happy face that doesn’t fool anyone, and when fall rolls around, the weeping willow tree seems to have the sense to come in out of the rain, and disdains the foliage spectrum, recognizing the futility of decidual decadence.
“Vowels of bright desire” is a phrase I found in something Donald Hall wrote; I’ll cite it properly when I find it again!