The Leaves Live On

Out my window

through glass smudged with diminutive hand prints

Stands a congregation of trees undressing.

When the Autumn wind blows its breath of brisk air,

The trees do a wiggle, wiggle

and disrobe a leaf or two.

Down they fall slowly, taking their sweet time —

As if realizing this is their final encore.

That is, until, a 3-year-old finds them

And picks one up, thin and frail from the yellow pile

discarded like dirty clothes on the bathroom floor.

Then the leaves — they live again!

in a crown

or a wreath

or a pile to jump

And really — have they seen a better day?

From outfitting a tree

to adorning the top of a head full of curls.

Rejoice, oh leaves!

You are not being discarded;

Now you live on as the crowning jewel

in a land as beautiful and vast as the forest

in the wondrous mind of a child.

Like coffee in the afternoon

I have become such a traditionalist

That is,

So in love with the rituals that thread day into day

Like coffee in the afternoon

Or the way the morning sunlight peers into my bathroom windows

The way the cat always half-sits

on my legs in the evenings

Or the way my bed-headed baby springs to the edge of her crib after naptime:

Mama, you’re here.

I love when the world feels small.

When neighbors wave while walking dogs,

and oh look, they planted roses;

When friends are so comfortable that they put up their feet,

When a heart is so comfortable it lets down its guard.

They say it takes a long time to grow an old friend,

and perhaps the same to grow an old soul,

but nevertheless;

the older I get,

the more I delight in the little things

(that are really the biggest of things)

that perhaps even my great, great, great

great

grandma loved most.

Like a husband’s worn boots by the mudroom door,

the smell of onions in a cast iron pan,

the giggle of a tickle fight,

the whisper of a 2-year-old’s secret —

and a cup of creamy coffee in the afternoon.

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Something mushy

Sometimes I find that the voice in my head

speaks in rhythm.

It talks in a tempo where the line

drops to the next.

Like this.

And so, in these moments, I feel so inspired to grab a cup of coffee

and a sunny spot by the window

and jot out a few words that almost always become

a love poem.

For that little feeling that stirs like cream in the sugar of my heart

spills over until I write it down.

And I used to sit

in the back row of Spanish

and string love poems together like plastic beads

thinking I knew something.

Until one winter night

at a smoky bar atop a sushi joint,

he smiled at me with those same eyes that close when he sings lullabies

to our fourth-born baby.

And a decade later, I still

want to write something mushy.

 

Now I know why old women sweep porches

I used to wonder why

old women in house shoes swept their porches

day after day.

The dirt just comes back, I thought.

Isn’t that sort of Sisyphean? A task, rather,

that can’t ever be completed.

But slowly, as life swept me up like a dustball in the corner of a hot summer porch,

I found myself at dusk one spring

sweeping, sweeping, sweeping

the dirt balls of a 6-year-old thinking that

this here was nothing short of paradise.

Now that seems an exaggeration, I am sure, but truly

— isn’t it that the task is not always about the result —

but more about the task itself?

This tidying of a driveway at dusk,

the breathing in of the evening air,

the meditative hush of the

swish, swish, swish

against the concrete —

the chore became nothing less than an act of love.

And in that moment it was the best I could do to say

thank you 

for the simple fact

that I have been given a porch to sweep

in front of a house that holds

my greatest joy.

The dirt comes back

And so do the dirty diapers

Another lullaby to sing

Another dishwasher to unload

Another dryer to fill

Another goodnight prayer to say

And just when I think

why bother?

— there’s always more to do —

I find myself wondering

Well, what else would I do anyway?

Nothing, I’m sure, that would be all that fulfilling.

And maybe it seems a bit overdone: really, a poem about sweeping?

But, of course, it’s not about the sweeping at all.

And that’s what those old ladies in house shoes

know better than anyone.

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