Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Stephen Dobyns: Leaf Blowers

That autumn morning he awoke to the crying

of lost souls that quickly changed to the roar

of leaf blowers up and down the street. Still,

the lost souls hung on, although only as idea, 

as if the day’s cloudy translucence had become

the gathered dead circling the earth. Nothing 

he believed, of course, but the thought gave flesh 

to the skeletal lack, who assumed their places

on fictitious chairs and couches, acquaintances,

old friends, relatives, as impatient as patients 

in a doctor’s waiting room, an internist late 

from a martini lunch. Yet it was him, his attention 

they seemed to crave. Did it matter they were false? 

They were real as long as he remembered them. 

And their seeming need for him, surely the opposite 

was true, as if they formed the ropes and stakes 

tying down the immense circus tent of his past,

till, as he aged, the world existed more as pretext 

to bring to mind the ones who had disappeared. 

This morning it was leaf blowers, this afternoon 

it might be something else, so as time went by 

the palpability of what was not, came to outstrip 

the formerly glittering quotidian, till all was seem, 

seem, ensuring that his final departure would be 

as slight as a skip or jump across a sidewalk’s crack, 

perhaps on a fall morning with sunlight streaking 

the maples’ fading abundance. Afternoon, evening,

even in the dead of night, waking to clutch his pillow 

as he slipped across from one darkness to the next. 


“Leaf Blowers” from The Day’s Last Light Reddens the Leaves of the Copper Beech, copyright 2016 by Stephen Dobyns, BOA Editions, Ltd.

3 comments on “Stephen Dobyns: Leaf Blowers

  1. russell buker
    November 7, 2020

    love this how one antiquity seeps into another

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    November 5, 2020

    Here with my ghosts, my memories of parents and friends, the construction next door, the motorcycles by the high school across the canyon, the dreams as I sink back into the bed, the wondering about nexts.

    Liked by 1 person

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