To Steal a Leaf


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.



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