The autumn is difficult.
Unnecessarily tied to the leaves, I am drawn
to step on the ones curled into fetal positions:
the helpless ones.
You raised your foot last year; now
I step on the leaves. I am satisfied by
the thick crunch that erupts. I kept my pain
hidden in my room, sequestered as it grew colder.
Down the wooden hall, you could hear me cry.
Everything grows colder. Days distance you
from me, and I don’t hear from you anymore.
In the spring, I thought I had recovered;
the new buds on the trees were tiny green flags,
indicating my home stretch. Home free.
Fuck this awful place. Fuck this place inside
where leaves are ever dead. Piles of them
collect and I don’t even have the pleasure of
burning them, and smelling the spiced smoke.
Piles of little failures threaten to trip me up,
covering each wobbly step.
Calendar pages turn. It will always be this time
of year, once a year. I found what you wrote me
in the winter, on my own pages. What time of year
did you expect me to find this? And you know I won’t
ever deface a book. The pages remain; I can’t rip them out.
Sick shit, she says as I recount these pages.
We walk through leaves; she kicks, I crunch.
Sick shit to do that to you now. Fuck him!
But I don’t know what’s sick and what isn’t.
I never did, when it came to you.
Good luck, you said. Good luck, honey.
Like you were standing beside me, touching my nape
before I went onstage to read. I would rather
remember that autumn instead of last one.
My hands shook as I gripped the lectern and read.
I read for you the poems you wouldn’t read yourself.
Everyone clapped. Outside, the dead magnolia leaves
slapped and scraped my shoes, too big to break.
We were okay then.
I want to rip the trees out with my bare hands.
I want to scream at them, make them understand
their persistence grates my guts into ribbons.
Every year there is less of me to tear apart.
Good luck, honey. The leaves are still piling up.
— Halsted M. Bernard