by Jeannie Rose Barksdale
The first thing you should know:
The tree has leaves.
Leaves, whose lives depart, by definition.
Evergreens have needles; palms, fronds.
But leaves fulfill their nomenclatural destiny:
Fade, wither, fall.
Their canopial majesty relentlessly picked off,
Or, in strong winds, surrendering whole branches,
Reducing a woodland to kindling.
They dot the ground, briefly aflame before they crisp and crack into dust,
Disintegrated by autumnal rains, made
Indistinguishable, like slippery sheets of mud.
From green to fire, from fire to earth.
I collect them by the bag, spread armfuls over scraps of food
To make fertile, extravagant dirt: “black gold.”
They are not lush or picturesque now, nor is the tree they flew from.
You wouldn’t be stopped in your tracks by their shocking beauty,
You wouldn’t sketch them or sing their praises.
But as they decompose, losing their very leaf-ness, becoming dirt
They feed the forest floor,
Nourish all that latent possibility beneath the matted, frozen ground,
Work a million tiny resurrections.
If it’s life you want, don’t look up to those lush summer leaves.
It’s not clinging to the tree that calls forth spring from barren winter.
Jeannie Rose Barksdale is currently working a day job at a human rights NGO and a night job as general manager of three kids four & under, but was once, and aspires to again be, a writer.