Summer evenings
the white hydrangea
glowed beyond twilight, a star

in a terracotta pot.

Now it’s a ball of paper.
As I comb the mane

of our back-garden, raking
leaves into stacks
at corners of the lawn

earth sprouts with the pent-up
spice of ditches and sodden logs,
and leaves in ones, twos,

spin down out of the blue, shaking
light from their flurry
as though from birds’ wings.

They are big as hands,
American in their buttery
school-bus yellows, their mustards

green-flecked like the scales

of the snake I found
in grandma’s yard, slack

as a length of hose,
and thwacked with a stick.
It whip-cracked and vanished

straight into my head.
Later, down cellar,
I was afraid again

among dowels of light from the vents
and the bundled leaves
of my mother’s letters home.

Shoeboxes full. My fingers
skimmed the tops of those pages
close-packed as feathers, her days

in the other country where we lived.

Fields of cornflower and maize
rippled in the wind.

Upstairs I fell asleep to the saga
of baseball,
night-games on the radio: woke

to jelly for jam,
waffles on the sunlit porch,
a primrose tablecloth.

Now if I straighten and look
up at the sycamores,
blood rushes away from my head

rehearsing, and I see
a jigsaw of light and leaves
turn dark as a cellar

where I go to return the tools

when the chores are done,
not knowing how my days are numbered.