The Leaf

A red-gold leaf floats to the ground, and there
I pick it up, hold it gently,
flat in my palm, a mirror of my own hands,
points like fingers, lines and veins, delicate and strong,

lines that cast the story of the journeys we
make, to the precipice and back and, for some, to hell,
where we may stay a while, take up residence in our suffering,
until we either persevere or perish.

In these lines, on this path, these hands stroke children’s faces, twirl golden strands
between fingers, touch cheeks at night, through tears;
in the dark, these hands, solemn and life-giving,
belong to my mother.

These hands clumsily fiddle with a lighter, shaky and desperate,
light the cigarette, flip this way and that, dangle the stick of burning tobacco–
with an air of confidence, and yet those lines betray longing for one more tomorrow–
as ashes fall, unnoticed, to the ground.

Crackling against my skin like the rough and delicate fabric of the leaf, this path for once
becomes a burden, a stifling presence that keeps me from the joys of red-gold leaves on autumn days.
And so, with the hands we share, I crumble the leaf, release it to the wind, a weight–
long-held–removed, a crumbly, red-gold burden of the soul.

A leaf floats to the ground, and there I pick it up, and there my life begins.

© SpiritLed 2013