In the Village

Quai d’Orléans

For Margaret Miller

Each barge on the river easily tows
       a mighty wake,
a giant oak-leaf of gray lights
       on duller gray;
and behind it real leaves are floating by,
       down to the sea.
Mercury-veins on the giant leaves,
       the ripples, make
for the sides of the quai, to extinguish themselves
       against the walls
as softly as falling-stars come to their ends
       at a point in the sky.
And throngs of small leaves, real leaves, trailing them,
       go drifting by
to disappear as modestly, down the sea’s
       dissolving halls.
We stand as still as stones to watch
       the leaves and ripples
while light and nervous water hold
       their interview.
“If what we see could forget us half as easily,”
       I want to tell you,
“as it does itself—but for life we’ll not be rid
       of the leaves’ fossils.”