Reading the Lees
To build these piles, not difficult at all
If damp and chance and practice will conspire,
I set the claw-foot tines down in the fall—
That time my town forbids the use of fire—
And drag, as if a bird scratching for feed,
Then with a virtuoso's flippant skill
Born out of nothing half so dull as need,
Process to hustle leaves onto a hill.
It grows by dint of half-a-forearm's twist.
The rustling oaks and wads of maples thick
As bank notes mount and mount, it's in the
The heavy, expert use of it to flick
These butcher-paper-brown and yellow packs
Up high and higher, higher still, until
They start to look like hay in Monet stacks
The farm hands build in Frost. So, with a
And arm, those leaves are tossed that long have
In sodden strata, mulch re-thatched in heaps.
The tannic acids that have left their stain
On paving stones take hold in sun that steeps
Them in their rotting molds and potpourris
Of Indian summer. Now I long to smoke
And smell this autumn's simmering of teas
So richer than the summer's, one might choke.
But these are other times and other falls
The winds have driven down. I mind the law
The way I mind the lawn, as labor calls
Me from my past and from that sense of awe
Once everyone would own to: smells so
And sweet and pungent they'd intoxicate
With incense in ascent in braids of long
Grey steam. But that was then; it is too
By half by now to sacrifice the leaves
To late November gods who are not there.
I think of tall brown penny rolls of sheaves,
Then drink the last lost brew that scents the
2001; originally printed in The Comstock Review.
Reprinted by permission of the author.