“old leaf” ~Chris Carney

1
you come running in,
hair dripping its map-steps
and the sand crusted on the top of your feet
tells me where you have been
“show me,” i say
and you pull out your phone (how funny, i take your taking it for granted
for granted — i never would have thought even a year ago)
and there
on its glowing screen,
you show me
your day
the sights that caught your eye
as you ran through the minutes and hours of sunlight
streaming between the trees,
sparkling liquidly the clear and green and blue tumbling into white
where you slipped in and around and beneath and out again
sparkling yourself
gems falling from your hair to adorn you a dazzle of light and brown
burning you to a gentle turn of tan
before
it left its footsteps in the sky,
red, pink, orange gold
washed away by the incoming tide of bluepurpleblack
that washed you here upon my quiet shore
and i
sit here
with
you
and i am there
in your voice, laughing, as it trips over the minutes and hours of the day,
in the smell of sea you haven’t yet washed away from your still-damp hair,
in the cool of your hand resting on my arm as you sit beside me,
the warmth of your joy that you lovingly spill on me,
jewels

2
who is this woman
she comes here now
calls me “Mama”
i should know that word
thereʻs a vague familiarity
like the falling of autumn leaves, i know must once
have been green
she reaches over
shows me a . . .
picture . . .?
yes,
pho
to
graph
i think i have seen them before
photo
graphs
people in them
she says names
they are in a party
it appears
they appear
somehow
familiar
and
a woman
seated
in the middle
yes
i see
she smiles
it must be a party
for her?
a cake
i remember
cakes
and
candles
happy
birthday
someone wrote
happy birthday
Mama
i have heard that word before
Mama
a faint perfume
and something warm
around me
or is it
in
me?
and the children
that run
and laugh
and cry
Mama
donʻt cry, little one
Mama
is here
i
wonder
who this woman
is
here
beside me
who cries
Mama
don’t cry

3
winter sun
stands quiet
this side of the hazy window
where it crept in
this silent room
trembling
so light
it left no footsteps
why here, faintstar?
you gaze around this empty room
wordless
as the dust
settled on the odd book
and broken chairs
staring back at you
a stranger now
forgotten
for seasons
perhaps you want to find
something
someone
you once knew
surely
you watched
the life escape
out the doors
down the path
overgrown now
with trees
once so meticulously trimmed
that shimmered in your
summer warmth
the wind is whistling now
sneaking in
under the ill-fit doors
and cracks of wall-planks
paint long curled and flaked away
only
the dust moves now
stirred
in the passing
quiet
light

4
the wind sweeps
cold, unrelenting
it sweeps the clouds
the snow
the incense smoke
the candle flames
it sweeps my hair
my jacket
my tears
leaving the empty cold
within
frosting the hard edges of memory
blanketing the barren lonely ground
with the soft touch of snow
that swirls gently on a softening wind
and for a moment
i see you
dancing
whirling
light as snow
and
my heart
warms

5
“Come ooonnn, let’s go!!!” you plead:
at any moment,
i know you will add your feet to the intercessionary,
and i sigh
as you look down the hill at the sparkling sea beyond
pulling you, pulling you
and i feel you
a colt
rising against the reins i hold
“This,” i try to tell you, “is where your grandmother is.”
You never knew her, but for the faded black and white photographs
a stiff woman standing stiffly amongst a stiff family in a stiff room
so formal
no tv’s or video games in sight
no sound of her voice
with its stories and memories
her instructions and scoldings
no smell of her holiday cooking
and the chaos of cousins and uncles and girlfriends
trying to get the first, the last pieces of her home cooked meal
no sting of the spankings
and certainly
no warmth
of her hugs
her smiles
her laughter
her tears
i don’t know how to know her to you
my impatient colt
“Yes,” i relent, “we’ll go in a moment .”
as i silently ask her
“please, let her know you”
before i say once more,
“This is where your grandmother is.”

words, untamed, devour me