What held the browning leaf to its stem
so long—a link that lasted a summer’s life time?
How ineluctably sap left the veins,
the spine curled. I hear again my mother’s complaint
on each of her fifteen final years’ visits from me,
I’ve lost a lot of ground this week,
as though ground were the one thing
valuable enough to cling to as the bones clot
and flesh loses mass and skin cells flake
along with the mind’s most basic reminders.
Her friend had called her “a little brown bird.”
She wore the russet color well but never sang.
Intractable, hanging on for nearly
a hundred years into an age that challenged
her understandings, duty was the word
that rallied her, not love, not living. And I,
her green leaf child, grew, and grew away, aching
always, for more than obligation, a need for richness that
offended her. In the cold’s wither she finally let go,
let go of me. Clipped by a biting wind from a naked stem,
she fell to that ground she thought she’d lost.