The colors have left the leaves— carotinoids, xanthophylls, anthocyanins dispelled from their dry husks. Where did they go? Are they stirring in the whirlwinds, succussing, diluting into potent medicants? Acer, Quercus, Ginkgo, Betula... dispensed through our in-breath— curatives for sharp tongues, faintness of heart, muddlement, sensitivity to cold and darkening days.
Mischievous winds tuck fallen leaves into our pockets. We give them to sales clerk thinking it's money, pull them from behind our ears like magic tricks. They turn up between the pages of the newspaper, in the cupboard among the tea cups, scattering across the floor like mice. The overnight rains will subdue them, plaster them onto streets and sidewalks. Then they'll dry up and blow away, only their tannin imprints left to surprise us.
Don't be fooled by the sugared streets, the icebox cold, snow falling as from a baker's sifter. The earth is an old oven but reliable. Just this morning, huddled under flannel and down, the low rumble you mistook for a snowplow was the reigniting of her slow preheat.
Even before sunup. The hip-hole in my memory-foamed futon forgets, when I turn, my belly is flat. I sway-back like a horse I once saw, antithesis of a camel. The somnolent brain processes, drifts along with neighbors', fears and questions, rise and fall of breath and fortune. Insurance. Memory of an argument in an exam room, billing codes and money, humiliating. Hours on fine print and still gotchas. Don't wish it on anybody. My employer's plan a security blanket, carefully woven. But adequate coverage is now "gold-plated." The free market solution someone's brain-child, not delivered through the pained body. Last night's moment of weakness, internet dating 3-month subscription, 25% off. The memory foam in my brain triggers my own eye-rolling. This morning's first contestant 15 years my senior, someone I've already met through a friend, but he's forgotten.
Furrows burrow knit brow to brow: rings round heartwood.
Chance and choices interwoven to now. Where next?
Last night before bed, I was reading Atul Gawande's article, The Checklist, in the latest New Yorker. I woke in the night dreaming of bagging severed body parts and large shards of glass. Not that he ever mentions anything of the sort, though he does write about intensive care units, of trauma and surgery and life support: "over a normal lifetime nearly all of us will come to know the glassed bay of an I.C.U. from the inside." This afternoon, I worked on an outline for some educational modules on postoperative pain management. The writers I work with write every day about cancer, heart disease, mental illness -- all the things that can go wrong. All the things that modern medicine can put back together again, sometimes. We are so complex, so ingenious, and so mortal.