“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked at the sky and lived. And
when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” ~ Dodinsky
Robins scream at the sky as if
to steal daylight, whose shadows cross
the Dubuque Riverwalk, where
I hold an autumn leaf to the heavens:
gilded translucency brightens
the edges of my fingertips like
sunlight peering around rainclouds.
I imagine the leaf’s bumpy veins
breaking off into the balmy air,
stretching so far, I picture the troposphere
as a single shimmering leaf
in the palm of the sun.
Suddenly, a gust swats the leaf from me.
Drags it across shallows.
It spins like a cyclone kicking ripples
toward waves like whitecapped crags.
Silty currents of algae snatch the leaf.
Grasp it in their glossy froth.
Swallow it without compunction.
I sit down on a black bench, wonder
how far down the leaf will drown
before it disintegrates like
skin in a scalding spring.
It may, though, survive in the undertow,
drifting like stardust in the sun’s
gravitational pull, rolling bigger,
as if by magic, consuming
the cosmos with each revolution.
Despite my imagination, that leaf
will never again be a bud of sun
on a branch. Never again waltz
on the breezy forest floor,
where I found it by a family
of foxes an hour earlier.
That leaf will be forgotten,
like most living things.
In the meantime, another leaf
will float among clouds
like a teardrop of gold paint
from the cathedral of the sky.