#258: Waiting for the Leaves

Oaks

(after Mary Oliver)

I’m sitting in the office space
that adjoins my classroom
while my student teacher is
wrangling with a group of freshmen,
and I am thinking about my oak trees.
In this stark, small, white room, lit
with florescent tube lights, desk
littered with papers, student work to
grade, a stack of books about teaching,
and a small library of poetry,
I’m thinking about my oak trees.
Early April and the leaves have
not yet emerged from their hiding
places but it’s so close now I can
almost hear their rustling even
from where I sit in this sterile office.
The evidence of last year’s performance
is everywhere: the grass turned to moss,
the moss turned to mud from the
excessive rains, the grass again
doing its level best to recover this
month, to flourish in May, only to
brown out in July and August
and then once again in the fall
to be buried with oak leaves,
leaves that refuse composting,
leaves that never deteriorate,
leaves that must be removed
if one wants to prevent their
absolute dominion over the ground.
Somehow it seems wrong, unjust,
our battle with the leaves and the trees.
They were here first, especially
these oaks, long before the roads,
the houses, the streetlights,
long before there was such a thing
as a driveway or a lawn.
In spring and early summer these
trees give us the shade, the green,
an ecosystem, an entire universe
hovering above our heads, a
sustaining, life-giving thing.
In return, we feel it necessary
in the fall to dig out from
underneath this bounty.
Here I am, though, now,
in my office lit with this
terrible light, in my head
a slight ache from the eye
strain, and I think of my trees,
and all of us
waiting for the leaves again.

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