They All Fall Down
The leaves are leaving, almost gone. Getting out while the getting's good. The getting out is none too good for leaves. Leaving is difficult when all one knows is hanging around. Now the rent is paid, bags are packed, time to travel. Night train, last bus, hitch a ride. No good reason to be here anymore, friends are gone, neighborhood is changing. Let's slam some doors, burn some bridges. Take a last shot at freedom.
The air is thick, no longer friendly. It welcomes no one. If they stay on the withered branches, they get beat up by the wind. If they fall into the water that sits atop the ground, then they're smashed into a stain-brown pulp, becoming another bland ingredient in the city's soup. Better to flee this quaking branch while there is still a chance. Falling leaves may seem a dance of lightness, a gentle choreography, but this is no ballet of grace. They flee with nothing, refugees without hope.
They leave behind a scrawny branch. What was the attraction of being there? This nurturing place has become a witch's gnarled fingers scratching at the purple air. Bright summer robes are abandoned, cast off, forgotten as these haggard women lean into bad times of their own. Their skinny silhouettes show no blood, gray ghosts left to writhe in silence. Screams are unheard or sucked up by the relentless wind. Nakedness ignored, these old maids in tatters can only cast faint shadows to cover exposed breasts. Wrinkled and scarred, they are unprotected from the endless lashings of the cold winds of November. Their crotches are weathered black from disuse. Fingers, long exposed, are too thin to offer cover. Sometimes the wind gets caught in these spidery branches but it twists itself free and is gone.
A leaden sky hangs over this place, a shroud, a weight pushing down to leach out life. Heavy grayness encircles each branch but not as a glove or a blanket. It smothers but gives no warmth. The sky neither rapes nor pillages. It cares not for what lies in the way. It severs with an unseen sword. Scattered debris litters its path, marks its presence. Sky and wind take no prisoners. Losses are left for the rain to wash away.
The rain is reigning. Judgment is swift, harsh, relentless. This triumvirate takes no counsel from the sun. The sun is blotted from the sky. Yellow leaves are pale reminders, scattered on the city floor. The yellow fades to a brown soup left too long on the stove. A man walks on the sidewalk. Hunched beneath an umbrella, his shoulders are drawn close to ward off the rain. This stranger, a gray silhouette drawn through leaves, is a spoon stirring soup.
November 19, 1995. Jim Hay. A Rainy Autumn in Eugene, Oregon