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LEAF      

Tantalizing allure of a fresh, blank page — the leaf —
to the old professor who knows every text by heart:
the sun is a rigid hand sliding evenly sideways,
each time a line lower, etching, with spider silk script,
reams in scattered array.

How they love, leaf and light:
the new one swells with the beaming, upturned face
of a granddaughter expecting to be kissed.
The deliberate, old widower plods his methodical ways:
He cannot smile; he cannot look away.
He scrawls out his interminably fustian sentences;
flash polished to patience, reflecting her beauty.

With capacious joy she takes up every line,
warming to the task, word by word, she grows
insatiably thirsty for the fluid, light lines,
all but the green that she gives back, drinks the rest,
collects, in nestling cuplets, his nourishing love.

When she grows refractory, unruly,
tendrils are upbraided, twisted, clipped,
constrained to stay in place, suffer, and work.
Still, she lives to learn and still he writes her.
As she stands she scans and reckons deep,
parses and discerns, earns the sweet riches:
ruby cabochons draped lavishly
about her supple, tightly collared throat.

      — Kathleen B. Henderson


Hear Kathleen B. Henderson read 'Leaf'