Loren Webster has been providing reviews of poetry by Archibald MacLeish, interspersed occasionally with lyrics from Van Morrison. These have become my calm, quiet moments in an otherwise stressful, somewhat jagged-edged day.

Not being one for poetry, or at least, I assumed I wasn’t one for poetry, I found myself surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed Loren’s introductions of the poets. My favorites have been MacLeish and David Wagoner, as neither poet seems to overflow with artistic sensibility; or indulge themselves writing poetry dripping with contrived sentimentality.

Today, I especially liked a short poem by MacLeish, which I stole from Loren’s page for duplication here:


The Old Men in the Leaf Smoke

The old men rake the yards for winter
Burning the autumn-fallen leaves.
They have no lives, the one or the other.
The leaves are dead, the old men live
Only a little, light as a leaf,
Left to themselves of all their loves:
Light in the head most often too.

Raking the leaves, raking the leaves,
Raking life and leaf together,
The old men smell of burning leaves,
But which is which they wonder – whether
Anyone tells the leaves and loves –
Anyone left, that is, who lives.


MacLeish’s The Old Men and the Leaf Smoke reminds me of another poem I’m fond of; a poem whose relevancy transcends both time and faith. I was reminded of it this week when Gary Turner’s father passed away only a few weeks after the birth of Gary’s first child, Cameron Fiona. The poem speaks for me far better than any words I can create:


To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

The Christian Bible: Ecclesiastics 3

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