Leaving Behind

November 2015


Open up for close
out    soul-clothes    every-
thing has to go    closing

down time    call them all
saints    souls    my own gone

ones:  Andy    Marcia    Mary Alice
Mary Anne     cloud of all    carried out


outside my window: locust, cloth
of gold     on the ground: its yellow

tabs   linden hearts   sweetgum stars
like cut-outs from the same ...    

paper-napkin ghosts in a tree near
the house where a year ago my friend — 

rust-colored chrysanthemums   rust-colored door


door to door the angel no the Lord
passed or did not pass — 

the angel opened the prison
door     doors to pass through, out
or in:  our millions, more than any — 

in the other story the Lord
said:  to put a difference between


between one and another
a gun:  at one end it’s a good

gun because at the other’s a cell
phone pill bottle toy gun nothing a

Trayvon    Tamir    Dontre    Michael
Laquan    Eric    Rekia    John:    call

them out and the others, black and many


many thousand gone    no
more auction block    slaves gone

up north where I am going
again, coppery oak leaves holding
on, overlaid with gold, then just rust
above the skeletal gray ...    

chains gone, or gone before, more — 


more new neighbors residing
on these avenues:  thousands in white
marble:  whitman harvey harris bliss — 

past yellowing birch and weeping beech
at the intersection of  Larch and Oak
whitney spencer jewell:  a startle

of Japanese maple spreading red


red shadow on pale
moon:  earth curtain

drawn slowly across
quarter half  almost

across:  weeks ago, weeks
of  my small life, child-

sized life so little left


left them there
mother   father
left leaving their living

their death-days:
his Labor, her June

yellow circles of  leaves beneath — 

something left behind


behind all that is
is not    God:  still, small
silence of    not beyond
beneath before but

no    where    name

blue sky gray

cloud that is   not there


There was a road, long,
gray, with dotted line — 

wanted to write
old, I thought years ago
young, and here it is: road

running out, gold gone
now, cut here   cut to old


old vets:  in 2012 the last
from the First, the Great, the war
to end all wars, its Armistice honored
the cause of world peace but there was

the Second, not even a million left and now
it’s all Veterans, suicides, homeless, parades
rained on today, our post-traumatic war


wars now, ten to watch:  Syria/ISIS
Ukraine S. Sudan Nigeria Congo Afghanistan

while the faithful debate: turn the other or
uniformed Christ with gun, as in the First — 

while boys spill toy soldiers, khaki and green
with tanks and guns, from a plastic tub — 

while leaves dry to khaki on our ground


ground covered with oak leaves, crisp
and tan, and others under, crushed
into brown, soon to be earth — 

but sun still lighting the threadleaf
Japanese maples apricot plum

sun still paling my pink-tinged skin
blood showing through my thinned


thinned to spindly twigs with dangles
of pods the once-gold locust — 

thinner the ice and higher the seas
and hotter the planet and what will be done
at the Paris talks to slow it   Paris

where last night terrorists killed and Beirut — 

to stop the killing the dying earth    to turn


turn on red    stop
light to go    light

touch    blood    love
light    wrote mind-

field for    mine-    it’s
a gold    mine    rising

into light    field to go


go with me, my love, my one
into that night where one will go

before the other but still our night
boat our bed    our lovers’ tongues
songs in the night    nor the moon

by night    our little light    night-

night my love    by and by


by order of    no exit except

the angel troubled the pool but

stubble before the wind just

two apples left on this tree — 

cloud from clūd, rock, but

the stars we see are not stars but

light    but cloud over light


lights out wars on last
days end times reckoning left

behind but which us them not one
stone upon another nation against

mirror terror Jesus Isa no one knows but
hurry it up faster let climate also be

a sign beginning of sorrows


sorrow sorrow my friend’s last bed

just five months after they said he ...    

behind the rust-colored door

brown brown all leaves on the ground

requiem aeternam we sang together

year years all tumbled down

et lux perpetua     light


light of sun on sweetgum leaves
glisten of amber and green or

sudden light of gunfire, bombs:
Nigeria now: two girls, one
eleven, strapped into suicide
vests, and Mali, the world

lit with the light of darkness


darkness He called ... or darkness
we make, denying the fallen among,
the recent threatened tortured escaped:

send them back send them to camps
make them register carry IDs
close down their mosques let only

Christians    passing by on the other


other, the once-red Japanese
maple, bare now, gray but

see its great muscled limbs
stretch out low, then curve up

as if to embrace, climb on a limb
and see in the cleft a small cluster,

as if arranged, of curling red


red heart pulse of — 

red the fountain filled
with Jesus’s blood, in another
country filled with martyrs’ — 

red the last apple on the tree I
could reach if I leaned — 

red that looks blue until it’s shed


shed skin feathers leaves water
-shed dividing line deciding

time    earth-age named
anthro- for us, our own doing our
undoing losing dying unless — 

the most fit the worst
fit for earth in all its ages


age mine    day mine    past
my appointed    night

mine    full moon    mourning
moon in a clear sky    old

light: wanted to make an opening
out from closing down but

enough to leave behind


behind them a mighty ocean
around them beasts and wilde men

after them us, closing our shores
ahead of us, rising oceans

forgive us this day our
immigrant past that isn’t even — 

first which shall be last


last chance ditch effort gasp:

gone-before last and could-be last:
how much can one elegy hold?

could this be it? a friend wrote, her last
words — last lost it for all our earth?

but last night that moon, all the way home

 — from Old English follow:    to last beyond last


last night I woke and found my body-
held living-for-now a piece of all — 

over the graves the beautiful
skeletal: chalice and vase, tangle
and dance, the white bones
of the birch, its vertical script — 

over my bones, this living that is my


my life my living my being my loving

my friend my friends my one my love

the huge white moon, missing almost nothing

my love in my arms, in my bed again

the advent candle for earth for hope

this almost last this work these leavings

my blessings my many my thanks for these


these days and nights, these lines
have changed (you must change)
my life my loving (my one) and

now this leaving behind this opening

out (the spaces between the dark
lines of the great unleaved) to where

the night is as clear as the day
More Poems by Martha Collins