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Poem: "A Leaf Falls" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "A Leaf Falls"

Here is today's freebie, prompted by Shirley Barrette.  This poem belongs to the series Tripping into the Future, which you can explore further via the Serial Poetry page.



A Leaf Falls


You look out over the alien fields,
look up at the unfamiliar sky.

This planet is beautiful in its austerity,
but you have little energy left to appreciate beauty.
It is your planet, yours as much as it is anyone's,
but you do not belong to it, were not born of it.

You are alone upon it, one mind
like a single fly on the rind of an orange,
unable to forget for an instant
the depth of your solitude.

Even Sasha, the odd little felinoid
that you rescued the very day you landed
because you could not bear to see one more thing die,
cannot fill the aching void left behind
where once there were human voices to hear
and human hands to touch your skin.

It makes you feel old,
to be so alone,
for age and loneliness
so often walk hand in hand,
but then again, it is not quite that.

You were older than the fresh-faced youths
newly come from boot camp, to be sure,
secure in your rank and maturity,
proof against their shenanigans;
but the generals were just as much older than you.

It is not so much that you are old --
well, you are  old,
you were born before
some of these infant stars were kindled,
though your body's age is far shorter --
but that you feel  old,
feel the weight of all those years,
eons compressed into eyeblinks,
like a vast mass of sand
pressing down on your back.

It is that you feel
trapped behind glass,
imprisoned in a desert of hours,
even as you turn the extraterrestrial earth
and press it full of tiny hopeful seeds
that silently imply a future.

A leaf falls,
and that too is alien,
for the tree-things of this planet
shed their leaves in the spring  instead of the autumn,
holding them close like oaks through the dry cold.

A leaf falls --
loneliness is emptier than vacuum --
the memories of your former life
skitter before the wind of entropy.

I want to go home, you think,
but these words too are empty,
because the time machine has swept you
far out to sea on a temporal riptide
and home is no longer even a speck on the horizon.

That star winked out long ago,
burning you not when it blazed hot
but when it smouldered away into cool darkness.

I want to go home, you think,
because you cannot unthink it
even though it pricks at you
like sharkskin stroked against the grain.

The empty words vanish into the silence;
here there is nobody even to yell at you.
That of all things, you never thought you would miss:
the harsh bark of a drill sergeant, a teenager's aggrieved wail,
the mosquito whine of a dissatisfied spouse.

You would trade the whole of this planet
for one harsh word, and you know it,
but all the messages have drifted away in their bottles
and your native tongue is reduced
to that which lies behind your own lips.

The alien signals that fill the sky
are so much foreign gabble to you,
as the Greeks heard only barbarbarbar
from the surrounding tribes
and therefore dubbed them barbarians.

So too, the tongue of your enemies
is alien to you, but at least they are human.

They are out there, somewhere,
on an alien planet or planets of their own,
doubtless aware that you did this to them
(did it to yourself, too, so you have
only yourself to blame for this aching isolation)
and complaining about it to each other,
unaware of how blessed they are
to have, at least, each other.

They would surely execute you
if they knew where you were.

This is why, so far,
you have sent no signals
of your own, only gathered passively
what messages float to this alien shore.

This is why: they would kill you if they could,
and finish what the war and fate failed to complete.

Perhaps, you think,
you deserve it.

They would surely speak to you first,
give you a hearing, and oh,
it has been so long since
anyone hear you.

Perhaps, you think,
that would be worth it.

* * *

Notes:

The title for this poem comes from another poem by e.e. cummings.


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7 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: February 5th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
.......

*Cathartic*. There but for Grace go I.

There's being *physically* alone... one does miss snuggles... and there's being completely cut off. The latter works for about half a day.... longer if one has things to do, but not very long at all in terms of lifetimes...

I once asked a relative youngling - she's 26 - what she would do if the Internet went poof.

She said, and I quote, "I'd probably panic." Given my current situation, I'd probably agree.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 6th, 2013 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> *Cathartic*. There but for Grace go I. <<

Sooth.

>>There's being *physically* alone... one does miss snuggles... and there's being completely cut off. The latter works for about half a day.... longer if one has things to do, but not very long at all in terms of lifetimes...<<

I think most of it's about control. If you choose to be alone, such that you can have company when you want it, that's usually tolerable. If you are left alone, whether you want it or not, that tends to be miserable.

>>I once asked a relative youngling - she's 26 - what she would do if the Internet went poof.

She said, and I quote, "I'd probably panic." Given my current situation, I'd probably agree.<<

I don't panic. I do strongly dislike being without a net connection. If the whole thing went down permanently, well, there went my primary means of support. But the amount of mayhem required to achieve that would probably make the loss ... the least of my worries.
From: technoshaman Date: February 6th, 2013 12:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

That's actually strangely comforting. If there's a big enough problem that the internet goes permakablooey, there's going to be problems I can sink my teeth into.

Oh, and if the fit *really* hits the shan? We meet in Grant's Pass, Oregon. It's highly likely to still *exist*, and it's midway between the two biggest concentration of geeks in the world. We'll figure *something* out.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 1st, 2016 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Count me in as another geek theoretically up for impromptu post-apocalyptic bizarro problem-solving! Beats doing nothing.

*ponders* Weird. I find "with whom will I plant a garden / start a school / practice martial arts for self-defense / write songs to retell the history Before The Fall" to be a stronger motivation to hang out with people in my geographical area then just, well, hanging out. But hanging out is HARD! I need to remember that it is also potentially rewarding.

--alatefeline
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 2nd, 2016 08:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

If there were people nearby who were worth hanging out with, I'd be happy to. But it's very difficult to find any. People I'd want to spend an apocalypse with? Aside from immediate family, I don't think any of mine are even in the same state.
chordatesrock From: chordatesrock Date: February 7th, 2013 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
So Sasha is canon now, and with backstory! :) This gives me more ideas, too...

Isn't it amazing that, through the main character, knowledge of the ancient Greeks survives past the lifespan of the galaxy where they lived?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 7th, 2013 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> So Sasha is canon now, and with backstory! :) <<

This is one of the things I enjoy about crowdfunding, the chance to pick up interesting tidbits from each other's work.

>> This gives me more ideas, too... <<

Yay! That sounds like fun.

>> Isn't it amazing that, through the main character, knowledge of the ancient Greeks survives past the lifespan of the galaxy where they lived? <<

Sooth. Message in a ship in a bottle.
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