Stubborn Leaves

On the stairs up the deck,
Or walking through piles of curling leaves
Still waiting for spunky Japanese red maple compadres
To drop and join them in flat bouquets

The racket above is like an old school, non-green,
New York City traffic jam where cabbies blast
exhausted horns and Yiddish-bang their steering wheels—not too hard—
not to get anywhere, just on a Racing Form stage for their passengers’ tips

I search the high clouds whitely inserted in the phthalo blue wonder
for the gassed-up geese who sometimes fly low enough
to be hidden by even the mostly barren tree tops,
Search for the thrill formation all the way back to caterpillar-to-butterfly

Words Mommy or Daddy told me about the why of the vee when I was six,
And think I’m in my father stopping on a step going up to his studio, he
Joyful with an odd right phrase in mind, or of a softer spaced E-flat to play,
Enjoying the honking baritone bird notes in his stranded mountain paradise

And me, pausing… to figure the suddenness and why of my dead stand still,
But excited by close wings carrying such girth—the weight of live wildlife—
And by startling, funny loud-ass nature… and then, of his hard square hug
like Dick Douglass’s handshake he loved, and taught…         a clasp into

His famous tan overcoat bedecked for storm-window work,
Not torn at the shoulder, but a winter chill steaming from it in my nose
Collar looking bristly hard like a stable’s boot cleaner, but cheek soft,
Joy and sorrow leaking into the banana bread kitchen he entered

As I play, his riffs and flourishes pass through me, his Jess Stacy to honest
Jelly Roll, sometimes… these humble visits, arbitrary, bending, dipping, like
A late bed brandy hug and kiss from wintered Brooks Brothers herringbone,
What leaves and geese are about…        stubborn leaves… blood at the roots.

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