I Am Like a Leaf

- 1875-1947

The silence is broken: into the nature 
  My soul sails out, 
Carrying the song of life on his brow,
   To meet the flowers and birds.

When my heart returns in the solitude, 
   She is very sad,
Looking back on the dead passions
  Lying on Love’s ruin. 

I am like a leaf
   Hanging over hope and despair, 
Which trembles and joins 
  The world’s imagination and ghost. 

At Night

At night the Universe grows lean, sober-
faced, of intoxication,
The shadow of the half-sphere curtains
down closely against my world, like a 
doorless cage, and the stillness chained by
wrinkled darkness strains throughout the Uni-
verse to be free. 
Listen, frogs in the pond, (the world is a pond itself)
     cry out for the light, for the truth!
The curtains rattle ghostlily along, bloodily biting
     my soul, the winds knocking on my cabin door
     with their shadowy hands.

To an Unknown Poet

When I am lost in the deep body of the
mist on the hill, 
The world seems built with me as its
pillar!
Am I the god upon the face of the deep, deepless
deepness in the Beginning?

I Hear You Call, Pine Tree

       I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill, by the silent                 pond
where the lotus flowers bloom, I hear you call, pine tree.
       What is it you call, pine tree, when the rain falls, when the                       winds
blow, and when the stars appear, what is it you call, pine tree?
       I hear you call, pine tree, but I am blind, and do not know                         how to
reach you, pine tree. Who will take me to you, pine tree?

Related Poems

The Leaves

I can bless a death this human, this leaf 
the size of my hand. From the life-line spreads

a sapped, distended jaundice 
toward the edges, still green.

I've seen the sick starve out beyond 
the grip of their disease.

They sleep for days, their stomachs gone, 
the bones in their hands

seeming to rise to the hour 
that will receive them.

Sometimes on their last evening, they sit up 
and ask for food,

their faces bloodless, almost golden, 
they inquire about the future.

                    *

One August I drove the back roads, 
the dust wheeling behind me.

I wandered through the ruins of sharecrop farms 
and saw the weeds in the sun frames

opening the floorboards. 
Once behind what must have been an outhouse

the way wild yellow roses bunched and climbed 
the sweaty walls, I found a pile of letters,

fire-scarred, urinous. 
All afternoon the sun brought the field to me.

The insects hushed as I approached. 
I read how the world had failed who ever lived behind

the page, behind the misquoted Bible verses, 
that awkward backhand trying to explain deliverance.

                    *

The morning Keats left Guys Hospital's cadaver rooms 
for the last time, he said he was afraid.

This was the future, this corning down a stairway 
under the elms' summer green,

passing the barber shops along the avenue that still 
performed the surgeries, still dumped

blood caught in sand from porcelain washtubs 
into the road-side sewer. From those windows,

from a distance, he could have been anyone 
taking in the trees, mistaking the muse for this new

warmth around his heart—the first symptom 
of his illness—that so swelled the look of things,

it made leaves into poems, though he'd write later 
he had not grieved, not loved enough to claim them.

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; 
Lengthen night and shorten day; 
Every leaf speaks bliss to me, 
Fluttering from the autumn tree. 
I shall smile when wreaths of snow 
Blossom where the rose should grow; 
I shall sing when night’s decay 
Ushers in a drearier day.
 

Blankets of Bark

Point north, north where they walk
in long blankets of curled bark,
dividing a line in the sand,
smelling like cracked shell,
desert wind, river where they left you
calling wolves from the hills,
	a list of names
growling from within the whirlwind.

Woman from the north,
lost sister who clapped at rain clouds.
We were once there
holding lightning bolts
above the heads of sleeping snakes.

Woman, sister, the cave wants our skin back,
it wants to shake our legs free from salt
and untwist our hair into strands of yarn
pulled rootless from the pocket of a man
who barks when he is reminded of the setting sun.

At 5 A.M., crickets gather in the doorway,
each of them a handful of smoke,
crawling to the house of a weeping woman,
breaking rocks on the thigh of a man stretching,
ordering us to drop coins into her shadow,
saying, "There, that is where we were born."

Born with leaves under our coats,
two years of solitude,
the sky never sailed from us,
we rowed toward it,
only to find a shell,
	        a house,
		   and a weeping woman.