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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.