The Leaves

Deborah Digges

I can bless a death this human, this leaf
the size of my hand. From the life-line spreads
a sapped, distended jaundice
toward the edges, still green.
I've seen the sick starve out beyond
the grip of their disease.
They sleep for days, their stomachs gone,
the bones in their hands
seeming to rise to the hour
that will receive them.
Sometimes on their last evening, they sit up
and ask for food,
their faces bloodless, almost golden,
they inquire about the future.
One August I drove the back roads,
the dust wheeling behind me.
I wandered through the ruins of sharecrop farms
and saw the weeds in the sun frames
opening the floorboards.
Once behind what must have been an outhouse
the way wild yellow roses bunched and climbed
the sweaty walls, I found a pile of letters,
fire-scarred, urinous.
All afternoon the sun brought the field to me.
The insects hushed as I approached.
I read how the world had failed who ever lived behind
the page, behind the misquoted Bible verses,
that awkward backhand trying to explain deliverance.
The morning Keats left Guys Hospital's cadaver rooms
for the last time, he said he was afraid.
This was the future, this corning down a stairway
under the elms' summer green,
passing the barber shops along the avenue that still
performed the surgeries, still dumped
blood caught in sand from porcelain washtubs
into the road-side sewer. From those windows,
from a distance, he could have been anyone
taking in the trees, mistaking the muse for this new
warmth around his heart—the first symptom
of his illness—that so swelled the look of things,
it made leaves into poems, though he'd write later
he had not grieved, not loved enough to claim them.
From Vesper Sparrows by Deborah Digges (Antheneum, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Darwin's Finches by Deborah Digges
My mother always called it a nest
Fence of Sticks by Deborah Digges
Greeter of Souls by Deborah Digges
Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers
My Life's Calling by Deborah Digges
My life's calling, setting fires
Telling the Bees by Deborah Digges
It fell to me to tell the bees
The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges
The wind blows
Trapeze by Deborah Digges
See how the first dark takes the city in its arms

Further Reading

Poems About the Natural World
A Windflower
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Amethyst Beads
by Eavan Boland
And the Intrepid Anthurium
by Pura López-Colomé
by Elinor Wylie
by Janet Loxley Lewis
Belong To
by David Baker
Butterfly Catcher
by Tina Cane
by Ravi Shankar
by Louise Bogan
by Elinor Wylie
by John Clare
February: The Boy Breughel
by Norman Dubie
by Erin Belieu
Fish Fucking
by Michael Blumenthal
For-The-Spirits-Who-Have-Rounded-The-Bend IIVAQSAAT
by dg nanouk okpik
Four Poems for Robin
by Gary Snyder
God's World
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Imaginary June
by C. D. Wright
In a Blue Wood
by Richard Levine
In Michael Robins’s class minus one
by Bob Hicok
Kentucky River Junction
by Wendell Berry
maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings
Making It Up as You Go Along
by Bin Ramke
Monody to the Sound of Zithers
by Kay Boyle
by Alfred Corn
October (section I)
by Louise Glück
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Of Many Worlds in This World
by Margaret Cavendish
by Jennifer Chang
Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poppies on the Wheat
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Prairie Spring
by Willa Cather
Russian Birch
by Nathaniel Bellows
by Lola Ridge
Song of Nature
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
by Bill Knott
Spontaneous Me
by Walt Whitman
by Sadakichi Hartmann
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
The Gladness of Nature
by William Cullen Bryant
The Life So Short...
by Eamon Grennan
The Noble Nature
by Ben Jonson
The Parallel Cathedral
by Tom Sleigh
The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
by Ezra Pound
The Wind and the Moon
by George Macdonald
There may be chaos still around the world
by George Santayana
by Joyce Kilmer
Two Butterflies went out at Noon— (533)
by Emily Dickinson
by Alan Shapiro
by Robert Penn Warren
What's the railroad to me?
by Henry David Thoreau
Winter Morning
by William Jay Smith
Work Without Hope
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge