A basswood tree
one of the oldest around
is dropping its yellow leaves
they are dropping off
inside a warm fog, billowing in from off the bay.
Clouds of vapor are white
in the street light
and the salt water smell
has come up river covering
causeways and corn stubble
a sweet land mown.
Stone steps, stone streets
the tallest magnolia for miles in the square
I am taking off my jacket in the night
and looking for a dry place to sit.
Francis Ponge could tell you
about the yellow leaves above me
landing on a damp street
and speaking of a tree
a tree who is speaking in leaves
and become a mute
with the fog in her mouth.
Across the bay
far away for a child to walk
I could be sleeping tonight
waiting on a recurrent dream
I will swear begins here
under the magnolia
under the basswood leaves
a pact of shared muteness.
March comes in everywhere light
felt before seen
heard before felt
down a street where I keep walking.
but no snow-
the maple buds booming red
and branching choruses talking over
the young children who can walk and tumble
and mothers who must push or carry the rest
bellowing in a heard light over them all.
I think this dream
of snowless winter
in this warm fog and wet streets
dock smells and gulls motionless in half light
on sepia water.
I swear I have been here before
a first place
pushed by my mother and beginning to walk
across emerald patches of new grass
never having felt the softness and bird chattering lights
starting over and over again
every time I close my eyes.
Seeing street lamps mutter and trees opening out
and spun bright leaf dotting pictures
in a new, gentle sun
remembering nothing before that.
Yes, I am pretty sure
it started here once
which is why I read Ponge and his tale
of leaf dropping trees and trees speaking through leaves
because I am leaving those days
like I fear
we are leaving winter
by a dream.
-Jeremy Nathan Marks
-Chestertown is a small town (and a real place) on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, sitting on the Chester River. It is a lovely spot with much character and beautiful old architecture. I often think of it as a place of possibilities and also as a spot across a bridge I can only sometimes gain passage.