Poetry in Motion

New York

Autumn Leaves

Marilyn Chin
A horizontal poster with a mosaic at the top features a poem titled Autumn Leaves, by Marilyn Chin. In the background, green, yellow, and red leaves fall.

Autumn Leaves

The dead piled up, thick, fragrant, on the fire escape.
My mother ordered me again, and again,
   to sweep it clean.
All that blooms must fall. I learned this
    not from the Tao, but from high school biology.

Oh, the contradictions of having a broom
    and not a dustpan!
I swept the leaves down, down through the iron grille
and let the dead rain over the Wong family’s patio.

And it was Achilles Wong who completed the task.
     We called her:
The one-who-cleared-away-another-family’s-autumn.

She blossomed, tall, benevolent, notwithstanding.

"Autumn Leaves" fromThe Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty by Marilyn Chin. Copyright © 1994. Reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions.