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George Sethares

five short poems

A Yellow Leaf

I reached to catch a yellow leaf
blown down on me.
And as it touched my hand
it turned to gold.
It lingered there awhile,
unsure which way to fall,
then fell like sunlight
to the ground.


We spent little time together talking.
We had our own lives, I with friends,
she always cooking and cleaning,
doing what I thought mothers did.
But I remember a day in the apple tree,
she looking up reaching for apples
I’d drop down to her, I reaching for
for the best apples, she calling softly
not to excite me. I remember how the
branches were wet with morning dew.
Don’t reach too far she’d say, almost
in a whisper. I remember wanting
to reach too far. She was afraid of that.
I wish she were here now, that we
might talk about reaching too far,
that she might tell me how she once
loved the view from an upper branch.


The first day of winter
and in two days a full moon.

A boy walks by my window on his way
to school and we wave.

Yesterday at dawn, clouds swam
in a sea of vibrant colors.

This morning there are only clouds.

I watch the woman next door
carry trash bags to the sidewalk.

Earlier this week a friend and I
were discussing reality.

On Reading “Memories and Weeks” by Pablo Neruda

Oh, Pablo, I so envy you.
You write as though the words
are born deep in your body
and come forth like a strong
wind that blows away doubt.

The PBS News Hour

Just after the evening News Hour Recap
photos of servicemen and servicewomen
lost in Afghanistan or Iraq whose deaths are
official and photographs available are shown.
Photo. Name. Rank. Age. Hometown.
Little time to wonder about each life before
the image is lost as the next photo appears.
I look forward to the News and am always
relieved when following the Recap there are
no new photographs to show.