The Leaf Burning
Smoke goes up in curls and ribbons;
Samuel Wainwright burns off his leaves.
He claims each one’s a page in the year,
Prophecy unfurling as they turn to light ash.
The peeking neighbor children know their leaves don’t do that.
Sam’s solemn this year as he tends the burn-pile–
Because of the wind he’s on the front lawn.
As he reads the smoke-stories, he mutters them softly
–A stranger could tell that it isn’t good news.
I bring him mulled cider as a tribute, a pledge.
“A hard year,” he says, adding a new handful,
“Of hard knocks, surprises, and very few laughs.”
I can’t read the smoke-script of old growth on fire
But it almost looks jagged, because of his words.
“We’ll have to laugh harder when we get to,” I say.
“Remember we’ll cry later, to not be too shocked.”
I blink as the sooty wind stings my eyes.
“Why do I bother?” he demands of the flame-tongues.
“When it’s never much help to know life is hard?”
“If you didn’t, you’d worry all year for us, Sam.”
He takes a sip, starts to mutter again.
I just watch his expression, his eyes behind glasses,
And am grateful for autumn and springtime and him–
The way his sharp knuckles are clenching the handle.
Something in him, and leaves, looks out for us.
I can stand years like this with that thought in my head.
We can burn off the last year, be braced for the next.
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