Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
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.

* * *


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

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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