At first he took my hand,
But soon he was drawn away
By an irresistable puddle or log.
I called his attention
To the arcade of multi-colored leaves—
The translucent fresco—
Under which we walked,
And told him this spectacle
Was like a circus,
A performance that would soon be over.
He looked up at me
As if I’d told him
Childhood wouldn’t last forever,
Struck with boredom and disbelief,
And showed me something far more thrilling—
A mud-tipped stick shedding its own bark.
I had tried to induce vigilance
For what was passing
In someone who did not yet know time,
Whose footsteps were his
Only form of counting,
For whom a minute was a day,
A week an hour,
And ripening and spoiling
Were all the same.
To him, watches were
Still just ugly bracelets
Clocks failed pictures,
And calendars books of empty boxes.
The sky darkened, signaling us to hurry,
But he dragged his feet.
Green leaves, red leaves, no leaves—
They were all of equal interest,
As exciting as a stick or puddle,
As much carpet as ceiling,
And fall not so much
A season as a state,
Like dreaming or sleeping,
Part of a curtain going up and down,
Entertaining as the play.
He shook a tree and I stopped him,
Thinking the leaves
Could hang on a bit longer.
He looked at me impatiently,
For he already knew:
The business of leaves is to fall.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 10, on page 34
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com