Image by Caroline Forbes

Reading Leaves

Reading Leaves

A change of wind brings a few foreign leaves,
skimming the hedge and the dustbins,
landing on my lawn like splashes of blood.
I pick one up and try to read it, but the message
is in a language of reds I can't decipher.
Its texture is of folded money, suggesting
a climate of plenty, wild parrots, a generous sky.

I set off to find the source: south-west,
somewhere beyond the school and the shoe factory.
I follow the scent of warmth and wealth,
leaving the town centre, the municipal buildings.
Then I'm lost in a tract of tower-blocks
and boarded-up shops, a children's playground
with broken glass, the stump of a roundabout.
I carry my red leaf as a guarantee.
A young mother shrugs. Try the bloke in the hat -
he's not from round here either.

He leans forward on the concrete bench,
takes the leaf in his palm, squints a long moment.
He speaks, and the wind freshens in reply.
Litter tumbles about the playground,
washing strung across balconies creaks and flaps.
And here they come: a flock of red leaves
circling, stepping down the grey air,
settling like rumours on his coat,
his boots, the bench, the broken ground.


From Hard Water (Jonathan Cape, 2003), copyright © Jean Sprackland 2003, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Recordings

Jean Sprackland Reading from her Poems

1Note from the Outside

2Hard Water

3Fibre Optics

4Reading Leaves

5The Apprentice

6The Currency of Jellyfish

7The Light Collector

8The Room of Saints and Virgins

9Seacoal

10Losing the Dark

11Holy

12No Man's Land

13Barbie on the Roof

14Lovell Radio Telescope, Jodrell Bank

15The Hairdresser's Across the Street

16And They All Lived Happily Ever After

17A Baby in the Filing Cabinet

18Before There Were Weather Forecasts

19Caravan

20The Man who Comes to Empty the Bottle Bank

21Shocks

22A Hangman's New Career

23The Mission

24An Old Friend Comes to Stay

25Everything Must Go

26Shadow Photograph

27Learning to Love Money

28Teaching Frogs to Fly

29Deadnettle

30In the Planetarium

31Radio Silence

32Tattoos for Mothers' Day

33Ice on the Beach

34You

35Physics

36Spilt

37Underfire

Books by Jean Sprackland