Roasted lamb with rosemary and cumin, deep red wine, stories about Dostoyevsky’s house in Russia, stories about Italy…these seemed like perfect things to be grateful for on Thanksgiving. I had Thanksgiving dinner with two Italian friends (one of which I met for the first time, but I’m willing to use this description now).
We ended our lamb dinner with grappa—I was the only one drinking grappa, oddly enough—and cake and stories of street protests in Italy. The time flew by.
This has been a pleasant week, taking some unemployed time off to play and relax. It has been museum week at my house. On Sunday I went with friends to the Baltimore Art Museum, as a friend’s daughter had been invited to create a permanent installation for the museum. Monday was the Renwick Gallery, Tuesday the Phillips Collection, Saturday the Textile Museum.
On Monday, I also went to a coffee shop across the street from the museum and sat looking out the windows at the Renwick while I wrote the first draft of the poem below. I’ve revised it a few times and am fairly happy with it.
Since you’re a sophisticated reader, of course I don’t need to tell you that poetry does not need to be autobiographical, but in case someone less knowledgeable than you reads this, I’ll mention that fact. I did, however, use personal experience as inspiration for the poem, including having seen a similar tree to the one in the poem, and the fact that my father has Alzheimers. But to emphasize that a poem can also be fiction, I’ve written this one in third person.
A tree of yellow leaves
with brown edges
stands on 23rd Street.
People step briskly on to work,
carrying the signature of urban workers,
large cups of coffee held out in front.
A man holding his cup
at the yellow leaves.
On a calm, windless morning
the leaves are raining down to the sidewalk.
Other trees hold tight,
Only this lone tree looses the leafy cascade.
Last night while ironing a shirt
to wear down this street
carrying a cup of coffee,
the man talked to his mother.
His father comes to the phone no more.
The father’s memories are like the yellow leaves
on 23rd Street—
they are letting go.
The man watches a moment, entranced,
then out of the trance moves on.
His thoughts leave the autumn,
leap back to the green of a summer day
when he sat on the porch with his father.
They drank gin and tonics.
Children played in the yard.
The man and his father talked of different birds,
talked of the father’s joy in bird watching.
The father talks mostly now of the past.
He talks sometimes of birds.
There was one he liked that called “yee-hoo! yee-hoo!”
But the name, like so much else,
has fluttered away.