portsmouth-dailytimes.com

Let’s Talk Poetry: Season of Leaves

October 13, 2013

Neil Carpathios


Contributing Columnist


Personally, I’m always sad to see summer exit. However, a small consolation for me is the beauty of the leaves. Like many people, I enjoy watching them blaze from browns to oranges near their end. And the leaves do teach us by their example the art of letting go.


I think that most of us at some point in childhood engaged in the traditional classroom activity of tracing leaves to create art. When was the last time you studied a leaf so closely? When did you last sniff a leaf’s dried maple aroma? When did you delicately touch a leaf’s papery, veiny flesh? I remember doing all of these things with my classmates while sitting in Mrs. Beck’s room, after having scavenged in the schoolyard and bringing inside those brilliant pieces of nature, those emblems of the season. Since that first grade activity, I admittedly have not appreciated a leaf in quite the same way.


Maybe the following poem by Judith Harris will take you back to your own long-ago classroom, and that childhood wonder of the common leaf:


Gathering Leaves in Grade School


They were smooth ovals,


and some the shade of potatoes—


some had been moth-eaten


or spotted, the maples


were starched, and crackled


like campfire.


We put them under tracing paper


and rubbed our crayons


over them, X-raying


the spread of their bones


and black, veined catacombs.


We colored them green and brown


and orange, and


cut them out along the edges,


labeling them deciduous


or evergreen.


All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,


with its cockeyed globe,


and nautical maps of ocean floors,


I watched those leaves


lost in their own worlds


flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:


without branches or roots,


or even a sky to hold on to.


Address poem submissions and correspondence to: ncarpathios@shawnee.edu or Neil Carpathios,


Shawnee State University, Dept. of English & Humanities, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).