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'Burning Leaves': A poem by Leon Bibb for Father's Day

On Father's Day, WKYC Senior Commentator Leon Bibb shares a poem he wrote in 1982 about the lasting memories of childhood autumns with his father.

CLEVELAND — The below poem, "Burning Leaves," was written by Leon Bibb


Autumn leaves are raked into piles

Unceremoniously packed into

Plastic or paper bags

Carted from curbside

By city workers driving big city trucks.

Years ago

We burned Autumn.

Our neighborhood smelled of smoking sycamore

As my father and I swept flakes

Of wind-whipped fall.

As he cradled his pipe on his lip

He puffed on it,

Sending skyward the

Wiggling waves of smoldering tobacco.

The smoke wafted through the forest of

Emptied branches of our stand of trees.

The same matches he struck to

Kindle his pipe

Also fired the sycamore leaves

Making two smoky streams

Which spiraled upward

Into the late October air.

As he pulled on his pipe

Dad heaped our burning leaves

Carefully checking their fiery crackle.

Lightheartedly, I leap-frogged outside fire’s lick

Skimming its top,

Playing catch-me-if-you can

With the flames singeing fingers.

As Dad chuckled

I chased wind-blown runaway leaves

As if they were horses needing

To lassoed, herded back, and corralled

To our burning pile.

In my memory

Are visions of my father in the prime of his life

And I in the schooldays years of mine.

Working together

We raked our yard of its Autumn offerings.

We stepped beneath the stretching sycamore trees

Which surrendered

Brown dried leaves

Marking the season’s change.

Under the tree limbs vacant of their leafy vestments

Were conversations

Between my father and me.

In the chill of the breeze, we chatted.

Through the smoke in the air, we spoke.

As we warmed ourselves by the fire

We tended at curbside.

Sharing the moments

We were two generations

Connected by blood

And surrounded by piles of autumn

Which had fallen on our green lawn.

It has been many years since those days

But I miss the times of autumn burnings

And conversations in the smoke-filled air.

But memories of them

Are as secure as those of my

Father and me

Wading through waves of October crunch,

Smelling our sycamore aflame.


(Revised, 2002)

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