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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

(One-Room School, Canoe Cove, Prince Edward Island,
by Robert Harris, 1849-1919, Canadian artist)

One day in Autumn, a classmate of mine, unfamiliar with the rule of “leaves of three, let them be,” brought in a collection of beautiful purple-gold leaves for an art project similar to the one described below. Fortunately, the school nurse was there with a bottle of calamine lotion.


They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes —
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,
with its cockeyed globe,
and nautical maps of ocean floors,
I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

~ Judith Harris, American poet

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