Conversing with a Leaf
Like a fledgling, it quivers. Though dead and brown,
cracked and dried, it shakes its thin wings. In scratches
and wiggles, it talks with the wind, then speaks to me
with unconcealed enthusiasm. I look around to be sure
you're not watching. If you were watching, you might think
I've lost my wits. Perhaps you'd be right.
I converse with a leaf, though I utter not a word, but instead,
shake my arms with quick spasms and flutters like a baby bird
begging for food. I open wide my mouth—a foolish sight,
you'd surely think, for one so large, without beak or feathers,
so decidedly un-bird-like. When I smile at the leaf, would you
think me an idiot? I ask the leaf for nothing, but thank it
and the wind for reminding me to look. Yes, spring comes.
Pausing in my tasks, delighted by its long-awaited warmth,
I raise my arms to the sun, rejoice in the purple glory of hyacinths
and blousy yellow jonquils that burst from under last year's
narrow, snow-blanched leaves. In grape-bark, grass
and mud nests, eggs hatch. Cardinals and robins
will soon fledge. You're not watching, are you?
Because the morning light and warmth seems ample
reason to dance around the talking leaf. I fling my arms,
twirl toward the promise of lilacs and the sweet breath
of hyacinths and flap and jiggle wildly for all the season's
fetal but upcoming baby birds.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
^this line, and everything below the line, is not part of the
poem—note to self, some drafts of this were not printed!
090427-1231-4a, 090426-1137-3a, 090425-2148-2e, 090424-2043-1g, 090424-0930-1st
Sun could paint my face with light and I might enjoy jonquils, hyacinths
and choruses of spring birdsong if I stayed outdoors. But instead, I go inside
and struggle with recalcitrant and unforgiving words. Woe closes
like darkness, cloys like stale air, on the poet who cannot or will not
relax and savor clusters of many-stamened speckled Hellebores
but carries experience away from its source
and ponders the language around it endlessly in the dimness
of her study. I am torn between the need to record and arrange these words
and the desire to stroke satin petals, while outside, sun shines
on newly opened scarlet and yellow tulips.
Started from the following journal excerpt: Conversing with a Leaf,
from my journal 090424: Through heaps of fallen lanceolate leaves,
bleached almost white by snow and sun, the neighbors' hyacinths press,
purple glories making their way without the aid of gardeners. And
next door, pink ones, like small fluffs of cotton candy on green
sticks, carefully tended. I incline my caring toward the wilder ones.
The air is cold but the sun is warm. On the sidewalk, a dead brown
oak leaf trembles in the wind, leaping about gently without blowing
away, reminding me of a baby bird, begging for food. If you had been
watching, you would have seen me speaking to the leaf, though uttering
not a word.