Jan 142011

by William Doreski

“A leaf among many leaves,” the rasp

of winter light on bare earth

where snow has melted much like

a stranger raking her fingers through

my hair. I rifle pages

of The New Yorker, Atlantic, Nation

for clues to the new persona

gradually overcoming me.

What did Duncan mean by the phrase?

The San Francisco he loved

has closed like a showy orchid,

leaving a stink. Only the greedy,

the greediest of the greedy,

can afford the housing that housed

the people I admired when

their books, paintings, and music

suggested “American culture”

wasn’t quite the oxymoron

it has since become. I’m only

a leaf among many, the light

fragile as the first real kiss

of adolescence. More than a month

of winter to come, a hundred books

to read before garden season

overtakes me in a grumble

of wheelbarrow-loads of compost.

Maybe a couple of layers

of snow yet to come. The pages

of the magazines rattle

in my hands. The text peels away

like snakeskin as the words refuse

to betray the person

I’m becoming against my will,

one leaf among many leaves brittle

in the hard white sun, something ugly

that wasn’t meant to evolve.