When All The Leaves Have Fallen

By Ken Woodley
At the top of this hill
the world is
all around me.
Leaves drop—red-gold and ember-brown—
like autumn snowflakes.
I hear the gentle pattering of their descent
as they brush against
other leaves still clinging to trees and branches.
I see the gravity of their shadows
on the ground
and upon my skin
and sometimes mistake these dark reflections for birds
or butterflies flying southward
before winter can catch them
and keep them here
at the top of this hill,
the world falling all around me.
I hear the leaves touch down gently upon the leaves
that have fallen before them.
I feel one leaf, then another, brush against my cheek,
nudging me to join them
and in that moment I feel myself falling
away with them in the breeze
toward a creek at the bottom this hillside.
When I was a child, I watched my grandfather
carefully construct a small, balsa wood waterwheel
which he placed in the stream for me
so that I could watch it spin with the current and listen to the sound
of its splashing magic.
I feel the touch of his hand now after all these years.
He’s come from heaven, surely.
I turn and look but, no,
it is simply another leaf, instead,
brushing against my outstretched hand,
nudging me.
Then another leaf, and, suddenly,
they are all around me now,
breeze-blown spirits
from the top of the hill.
So, I walk on, determined,
listening to my footsteps in the fallen leaves
and the sound of water flowing with a smiling splash beside me
like a prayer
When all the leaves have fallen, I’ll still see them on the trees.

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