A Favorite Poem; “Kicking the Leaves”

This is a favorite poem. “Kicking the Leaves” by Donald Hall.  

Kicking the leaves, October, as we walk home together
from the game, in Ann Arbor,
on a day the color of soot, rain in the air;
I kick at the leaves of maples,
reds of seventy different shades, yellow
like old paper; and poplar leaves, fragile and pale;
and elm leaves, flags of a doomed race.
I kick at the leaves, making a sound I remember
as the leaves swirl upward from my boot,
and flutter; and I remember
Octobers walking to school in Connecticut,
wearing corduroy knickers that swished
with a sound like leaves; and a Sunday buying
a cup of cider at a roadside stand
on a dirt road in New Hampshire; and kicking the leaves,
autumn 1955 in Massachusetts, knowing
my father would die when the leaves were gone.
2
Each fall in New Hampshire, on the farm
where my mother grew up, a girl in the country,
my grandfather and grandmother
finished the autumn work, taking the last vegetables in
from the fields, canning, storing roots and apples
in the cellar under the kitchen. Then my grandfather
raked leaves against the house
as the final chore of autumn.
One November I drove up from college to see them.
We pulled big rakes, as we did when we hayed in summer, pulling the leaves against the granite foundations
around the house, on every side of the house,
and then, to keep them in place, we cut spruce boughs
and laid them across the leaves,
green on red, until the house
was tucked up, ready for snow
that would freeze the leaves in tight, like a stiff skirt.
Then we puffed through the shed door,
taking off boots and overcoats, slapping our hands,
and sat in the kitchen, rocking, and drank
black coffee my grandmother made,
three of us sitting together, silent, in gray November.
3
One Saturday when I was little, before the war,
my father came home at noon from his half day at the office
and wore his Bates sweater, black on red,
with the crossed hockey sticks on it, and raked beside me
in the back yard, and tumbled in the leaves with me,
laughing , and carried me, laughing, my hair full of leaves,
to the kitchen window
where my mother could see us, and smile, and motion
to set me down, afraid I would fall and be hurt.
4
Kicking the leaves today, as we walk home together
from the game, among the crowds of people
with their bright pennants, as many and bright as leaves,
my daughter’s hair is the red-yellow color
of birch leaves, and she is tall like a birch,
growing up, fifteen, growing older; and my son
flamboyant as maple, twenty,
visits from college, and walks ahead of us, his step
springing, impatient to travel
the woods of the earth. Now I watch them
from a pile of leaves beside this clapboard house
in Ann Arbor, across from the school
where they learned to read,
as their shapes grow small with distance, waving,
and I know that I
diminish, not them, as I go first
into the leaves, taking
the way they will follow, Octobers and years from now.
5
This year the poems came back, when the leaves fell.
Kicking the leaves, I heard the leaves tell stories,
remembering and therefore looking ahead, and building
the house of dying. I looked up into the maples
and found them, the vowels of bright desire.
I thought they had gone forever
while the bird sang I love you, I love you
and shook its black head
from side to side, and its red eye with no lid,
through years of winter, cold
as the taste of chickenwire, the music of cinderblock.
6
Kicking the leaves, I uncover the lids of graves.
My grandfather died at seventy-seven., in March
when the sap was running, and I remember my father
twenty years ago,
coughing himself to death at fifty-two in the house
in the suburbs. Oh how we flung
leaves in the air! How they tumbled and fluttered around us,
like slowly cascading water, when we walked together
in Hamden, before the war, when Johnson’s Pond
had not surrendered to houses, the two of us
hand in hand, and in the wet air the smell of leaves
burning:
in six years I will be fifty-two.
7
Now in fall, I leap and fall
to feel the leaves crush under my body, to feel my body
buoyant in the ocean of leaves, the night of them,
night heaving with death and leaves, rocking like the ocean.
Oh this delicious falling into the arms of leaves,
into the soft laps of leaves!
Face down, I swim into the leaves, feathery,
breathing the acrid odor of maple, swooping
in long glides to the bottom of October —
where the farm lies curled against the winter, and soup steams
its breath of onion and carrot
onto damp curtains and windows; and past the windows
I see the tall bare maple trunks and branches, the oak
with its few brown weathery remnant leaves,
and the spruce trees, holding their green.
Now I leap and fall, exultant, recovering
from death, on account of death, in accord with the dead,
the smell and taste of leaves again,
and the pleasure, the only long pleasure, of taking a place
in the story of leaves.

God’s Palette

All the colors are there in the leaf. God’s Palette. Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

I found God’s Palette yesterday, Saturday, in our backyard.

This I read early Sunday morning (Today’s Daily Word):

“In the past, I may have hidden my inner light, afraid to be myself. I may have tried to please others by conforming to someone else’s idea of who I should be. I may have shrunk from an aspiration, fearing that I would fail in pursuit of my goal. I may have doubted the divine perfection at the core of my spiritual self, identifying with my perceived flaws and feeling small and inadequate.

“Today I make a new choice. I choose to live fearlessly, drawing upon my faith to believe in myself, my imagination to envision my best life, and my understanding to know my divinity.

“Bold and brave, I am fearless as I live my life authentically, pursue my dreams, and express my divine nature.”

And then this verse:

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread … because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.—Deuteronomy 31:6

I love the last sentence and the verse from Deuteronomy.

I had a test for Covid-19 this morning. I have no symptoms. I had the test because on Wednesday I have a routine colonoscopy scheduled. The last time I had one, and the first time, was about ten years ago. I find it interesting it is called routine. I picked up my gallon of fluid to prepare for the procedure after the having the Covid test. The nurse who administered the test told me her name was Joy. And she was a joy; I could see the love in her eyes. The test lasted 5-10 seconds and was ticklish.

So this morning’s Daily Word spoke to me. “Today…I choose to live fearlessly, drawing upon my faith…bold and brave…” And I did.

Something else; last night I read some old Blog/Journal entries and I was filled with a degree of sadness, if not regret. What happened? Something happened. I have had an online presence for nearly twenty years. I have made friends with people all around world. For example, I met Helena online fifteen years ago and featured her photographs in my art gallery. Susan and I housesat for her and her husband two Septembers ago. I think that is wonderful. And amazing.

But I wondered has my life become so routine, if not boring, that I have nothing to say. I don’t think so. Of course, I am no longer commuting to New York City and returning with stories like these:

“Daryl and I are on the road at 6:00 a.m. He listens to Nelly, Jay Z, and other rap artists on my cd player and I listen to NPR on the radio. When we arrive in New York City we first head to the bathrooms at the Four Seasons Hotel on West 57th Street. I’m early for my appointment at Playboy so we look at the Will Cotton paintings at Mary Boone and the Annette Lemieux show at Mckee. I have a very good appointment at Playboy (“Daryl put that magazine down please”); one of the most beautiful offices I’ve seen in the city. And then we played a game of pool at Bar Code on Broadway, listened to music at Virgin Records, had lunch at B.B. King and saw a movie–“Just Visiting,” which I thought was hilarious, but I must say I laughed all the way through “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” twice. We slept at my dad’s and had a wonderful dinner with him.”

“In my Dad’s apartment are four brown “Pilgrim” coffee mugs. He has had these for as long as I can remember. My Mom and I would sit at the kitchen table when I was home from college and drink coffee together before I drove her to work. I am drinking coffee from the mug with a turkey on it (the other three have pilgrims painted on them). A special friend once wrote “we are the only creatures with poetry. The things that exisit are the question……to learn is to question.” I like that. I wish I had written it. I am trying to remember this morning as my Dad still sleeps. And if to learn is to awaken, then if we practice the sacrament of the precious moment, we constantly experience a re-birth; I see this morning a garden with many steps and a waterfall; I step from stone to stone; moment to moment; and like a dog (that “animal mentality”), I hope, super-attunded, focused to that which is there, here. I woke this morning from a dream; it had happened but I was dreaming; Daryl and I are in an outdoor pool in winter in Maine, taking a break from skiing (me) and snowboarding (he). Mist is rising from the pool. Snow surrounds us; and the mountains rise like mythic creatures into the dark and misty sky. All is quiet. All in calm. He is the holy infant. And here is this pilgrim mug from which I drink. I am reading a wonderful article a friend wrote entitled “Focal Points Lead the Eye.”

“By midday I knew I would not be going to the ballet this evening; my feet were sore and swollen and I needed a good kick; a pick-me-up. His name was Bonsu Osei, taxi license number 048360. I called him Banzai. License number 007, license to kill. I feel as if I am surfing the Bonzai Pipeline as we head down the cavern of Fifth Avenue; I can see nothing except a flurry of color, heads seem to turn, cars and trucks and taxis are at a standstill; I wonder if and when I will wipeout. We come to a screeching halt at a red light and a cripple, oh, I mean a man in a wheelchair wheels himself over to Banzai’s window and says “spare some change?” and Banzai gives him change and I wonder if the man in the wheelchair is a man Banzai once ran over surfing the streets of New York City.”

So many more stories about trips to New York City with Daryl, Danielle and her friends, visits to my customers, art galleries and museums, dinners with my Dad. I am blessed to have these stories as wonderful memories.

There were photos and poems then. And stories. There are photos and poems now. I simply need to look for new stories and write them down.

And, of course, there is always God’s Palette.

 

Pretty Photos

Just some recent photos from the last days of September and first day of October.

Leaves in our backyard.

Monarch Butterfly. I love this photo. And they are still visiting the garden!

Mittineague Park, West Springfield. Down the street from where we live.

Gooseberry Farms. Down the street from where we live.

Gooseberry Farms.

Gooseberry Farms.

Gooseberry Farms.

Gooseberry Farms.

Gooseberry Farms.

Recent sunrise on a walk with Freddy.

Mittineague Park.

Zinnia. Beautiful, Bruce!

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