by Robert Riche
Somewhere in a region
I can't find on a map
rag-tag families flee across desert plains,
pursued by men on horseback and camels,
who want to drive them from their villages and homes.
You've seen pictures of them on TV
hanging from the sides of dilapidated trucks,
sometimes trudging on foot, snapping twigs
at sullen donkeys who bear
all that they've saved.
Here, in New England, here in October,
a blizzard of leaves swirls in the air,
rag-tag colors against a sky so blue
it could break your heart. It is the flying leaves
that have brought these refugees to mind,
though I would feel ridiculous if I were to say
that I see a similarity between the flight of refugees
and the falling of leaves on my manicured lawn.
People would think I'm nuts, or worse,
some idiotic poet looking to link up a cute notion
with the tragedy of people who are being chased
across the globe.
And yet, I know when I sit down for my coffee
this morning I will see the long winding lines
of refugees beside my cup, even as I look out the window
at the disappearance of another year gone by.
Winds have driven the leaves all night.
They clump together and huddle in piles.
Every year we dump them where they're out of sight.
More important than all this is something I suspect
the marauding horsemen don't understand,
that after they have accomplished their hideous task,
after they have emptied the villages
of people they don't know and don't like,
a time will come when
they will no longer be about.
And along the branches of streams
in that part of the world I can't find on the map
little groups they thought had been wiped out
will begin to appear and be seen again.
They'll hoist their flags and carry them high,
as here in New England a new generation of leaves
will poke their heads out from along bare branches
that looked to have been dead,
and raise their faces to the sun.