Leaves

Springtime was always, for me,
the reigning queen of seasons;
what else could it be? I love
fresh green, and willow buds
swelling on the branches, the perfume
of blossoms everywhere. Springtime
was, to me, as reassuring
as a loving mother's kiss.
But the winter - God forbid!
The winter in Kansas comes like
white blades, driving and slicing –
a testy old man cutting relatives
out of his will. And the summers,
I'm afraid, are no better: heat waves
crinkling dry, brown hills; the nights
as torturous as a bed of coals.
But the spring was all soft sun
and pollened honey bees; the spring
was young rabbits nibbling new-grown
grass. And the fall –
well, I guess, the fall
I just ignored.

College graduation, I remember,
was in spring. I had a new
three-piece suit. Silk tie. And
three springs after, for the first
time, I was a best man. Gold ring
tucked securely in the pocket
of my vest. Champagne flowed
like sunshine; the bride's maids'
dresses matched the lilacs
by the belltower.

But yesterday, on a frost-nipped
October morning, I was, for the
first time, a pallbearer. That same
suit, much older now, made do, and
silk tie, diminished though they
were beside the smooth, polished oak
of the coffin. Beside the spray
of flowers as fragrant as had
they still been rooted. Beside
the cemetery's gray stone arch.

The afternoon that same day it
rained a little. My father
and I went out to check a fence
above the meadow. By the slough
the red Virginia creeper was blazing
up the elm. The little walnut trees
were yellow-leafed and rust-dappled,
leaves thick enough to dress the
limbs, yet thin enough to let
through smoke-gray sky. The wet,
black bark of the mulberry glistened
above a soft, silent bed
of gold. I stopped and breathed
the quiet damp, and listened in
the deep, cool air. Then I knelt,
took off my glove, and touched
the tiny beads of mist collected
round my boot. My father trudged on
ahead. "Dad," I called to him. "Dad."

He stopped. And turned.
For a moment he stood unmoving.
Wisps of iron-gray hair below
his cap, his old shoulders bent but
steady, his hands as tough and weathered
as the mulberry bark. He
looked at me. "Dad," I said.
"Look at the colors. Aren't they beautiful?"

- Mark Scheel

____________________
 
Originally published in Nostalgia magazine
Used by permission of the poet


November 12, 1999 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

Blue Skyways Kansas on the Net   Visit the Home Page for Kansas
  A service of the Kansas State Library