Children are careless to life: and so I reached
Right overhead as we passed, and grasped a leaf.
Stolen, it shook the branch – which I had arched
Down with my young arms – and as we laughed
I recall the plate of green lay in my palm
As cool as copper. Feeling its gentle weight
My queries wondered. Wishing it no harm
I hungered still to feel it torn apart:
Its wax to fold, its fine capillaries
To disentangle. my fingers wet with green;
The scent of fresh-hewn stone or dew-kissed grass
To rub in the hands. I held the leaf: and then,
As the curious carnage-wish grew most acute
I could not break it. I stepped back to the tree
And, whimpering, said sorry for its hurt;
I laid the injured leaf down, sparingly –
A coward to my hands, but somehow braved
By thoughts of green, of something precious, saved.
We’ve all at some stage rolled a leaf in our hands, crushing the young, green life out of it. There is a certain tactile fascination in it: but there is something quite cruel in the act, which, though only a small gesture, still saddens me.