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Last Leaves

It’s this kind of day after the deluge. Earth is speech dumb, too. Everything is inside out and on the side of the sleeping. One leaf on the tree is a summer gone. The leaf is in its own penumbra of grey-white sky. It will fall, but not this moment. Not now. One leaf makes you think of all the others; gone, fallen, jettisoned. One leaf can stand for the others. When people stop walking the bird world intrudes as a low, electrical chatter. The birds are always out of sight. Not like this leaf. You can return to it anytime. It is suspended between the worlds, halfway there and curled in a statuesque stillness as chrysalises do it by doing nothing. It happens, that’s all. You can’t rush this. The leaf is formless, unrecognisable in profile. It’s a long way down to the grass and the silver film of raindrops. Down, down, everything is on its way down today. There is no escape for leaves. Or this one. It’s a thoughtful leaf pondering its descent, a procrastinating leaf taking its time. A squirrel investigates by stretching out its whiskers. Not edible. It’s this kind of day of saturated, sodden ground. The day is set to mute. Thoughts are returning to earth. The leaf brings the far into focus; time, and it is running out. Your time is up mortal day. Who will notice this leaf when it falls? It will fall in your mind. You will picture it not plummeting but riding slightly on an updraught, a play-thing swinging for the last time. Unknown always is this descent.

Last leaf is the first thought of spring. The buds of the new year are already fattened on the branches. It’s only a matter of time. The people plod slowly in their own thoughts, except one, the poet lady happy with her walking sticks. ‘The light, every day the light,’ she exclaims for no reason. Two jays keep a noble silence. Two magpies don’t care. They tug for worms; their hearts are utilitarian. Last leaves are last thoughts of you and me. They are summer’s sequins patterning her dress, her way of swifting water in the trees. The dizzy days are gone, the upsurge of reckless greens and flowers. The holy mix of life’s dreams is teased apart. The leaf hangs by a short thread; a good wind will break it, frost prise the once living from the tree. One leaf will be a representative for a tree in a park, for a summer, a survivor of deluging rains. It will stand for you and me, will be a youme of what went before. Leaves at the end are swept into any old corner. The rotting, rotten gods will do their job. They come apart as days must do to arrive at the collective. Night is below and shadowing day. But still the leaf hangs on. Solitary, dumb-eyed, and accompanied by its own penumbra of grey-white sky. When it falls a worm will tug it; it will stand upright, become for a while a brown sail. To catch which wind?

(Viewing the last leaf on a tree, Bath Botanical Garden)