So I’ve been reading Robert Browning recently for class. Dramatic monologues and all that. So I thought I’d try my hand at one of them for once, or at least a poetic bastardization of such. If that’s the word I’m looking for. No, the right phrase is probably a dramatic bastardization. Anyway, I like it enough.
I Heard the Leaves
I heard the leaves as they were falling, once,
And they were singing songs,
Or so I thought.
The leaves, at least, were falling and they made
Some kind of noise as each of them were caught
And carried off by gusts,
Their song was hardly mournful or distraught,
Despite how, in that very wind that sought
The leaves, the barren branches left behind
All rattled, shook, and seemed to howl at time
For bringing such a fell fall wind around
To drag their fragile children to the ground.
However, their autumnal agony
Was drowned out by their spinning progeny:
The leaves all seemed to dance in revelry
While singing “Hallelujah! We are free!”
I see the look you’re sending me
Askance; a glance that seems to ask me why,
As if I’m sending back insanity.
I know that they could neither talk, nor cry,
Nor sing a thing, of that, you can be sure,
But bear with me some more.
Now, where was I?
Ah, right: I could not help but wonder if
These singers knew they were not long to live
And their unbound rejoicing would not last,
For freedom’s only meant for dust and ash,
Since their reward is freedom’s final price
For falling leaves that spin like loaded dice
Or flipping coins with both sides tails, or heads
Cut from the trunk and wishing they were dead
But betting for their life. These leaves, I think,
Are too too sordid; far too much like me
For me to look on them and really see
Just a leaf: an ounce of compost for the grass
In final rites for passing Advent Mass
With mourning branches shuddering above
And silent ground so welcoming below.
Christian men and women all around
Look on the sight, and hear the raspy sounds,
And say “oh, how I love the autumn day
When leaves are changing in the best of ways!”
But they ignore the branches, stripped and bare,
And buried leaves no longer in the air–
Blinded fools! the beauty’s where you cannot see!
Lift the blanket, look below, and there will be
Your truth, your beauty, and your free! But no,
It may be really foolish me. I know
The leaves were making sounds of revelry,
And this design was drawn up by the trees;
Their fall-inspired offspring must have known
Of their mortality as they were grown–
Their dance was no coincidence of wind,
With songs of Hallelujah to the end,
But that these very leaves–
I see no need:
You seem to have no interest in this–
Just like a newly-planted thought, or seed,
That died inside my heavy-handedness.
I may have spoken anthropomorphically:
Indeed, some trees may be deciduous,
And grow their leaves in spring, but finally
Re-absorb them when the daylight’s less,
But that’s not really what my story’s for–
Jesus Christ, haven’t you heard of metaphor?
~Michael Danger Caskey