‘Look at a Dry Leaf’

Trees are changing color on the South Common. The early reds, golds, rusts, and yellow-oranges in every variation multiply by the day. Green leaves still predominate, but won’t last more than a couple of more weeks. I walked the dog this morning in air that was colder than cool. This is a poem from my first full-length collection, “Strong Place,” published in 1984.—PM 


Look at a Dry Leaf


A dry leaf is a physical map:

River beds are sap routes forking off a prime vein.

The underside’s not printed, but the face is a bright terrain

Or scaly parchment resembling earth cracked by drought.

In one quadrant of this chart, locate red hills;

Check another for tracks of golden birch following tributaries south.

Like old maps, leaves curl and flake.

Oak is smooth brown leather; wine skin of a maple buckles.

A year-old leaf pressed flat is a brittle dollar.

These small flags tell me: “Autumn. North. Good.”


—Paul Marion (c) 1984