Above – quite high and overhead – a family of oak leaves is drifting.
They’re drifting on the breeze, on the pale cool bleach of an autumn sky.
The leaves are now quite dry.
The leaves are now quite dead.
And when they come to ground they move: sad and lonely and restless:
They drift like ashen flakes – cast out –
Like those ashen flakes born in the fire storms of Dresden.
I’m cycling through the park.
I’m near the summit of a hill …
Then, too, a gathering of black, tree-top birds –
Jackdaws with their strange pale eyes.
Cut loose, a sudden dashing woodpecker in crimson,
all elegant staccato: peck, stop; and peck, peck again.
After the summit the path descends: I cross a stream –
where the spaniels love to fish.
And then a climb – and then ahead upon the climb –
a man – his tiny dog (I think he loves his dog) –
and his wife. She is lodged in a purple mobility machine.
She cannot get out and walk. She has a lovely face.
(I know he loves his wife.)
Then something extraordinary:
The man, his dog and his wife all try to get out of my way.
She does her best to orient her machine onto the nettled edges.
The man looks at me; his eyes sparkle.
The woman looks up at me with a sweet smile.
‘There you go,’ he says to me.
I thank them both.
‘It’s a pleasure,’ he says.
‘It’s a pleasure – no problem,’ she says.
I think back to the drifting leaves: the quick and the dead –
and then the warmth of that sweet ‘no problem’ smile.