Stephen Stepanchev


A tree falling apart in the autumn rain:
Five-pointed, yellow, flame-like leaves: a shadow
Of rust on the grass: a union of earth and sky:
Leaves circling in a death spiral from a bare branch
Where a nest yawns empty, surprisingly visible.

I think of a skater out of St. Petersburg,
Leaping, resisting the pull of gravity,
Trusting her muscled Ivan as he swings her out
In a death spiral over the pond, her face
Grazing the ice -- she nearly kisses it! --
Until she rises again in his embrace,
Breathing the musk of possibility.

So Natalie dips and dives as she dances around
The room. A glass of red wine dizzies her
A little and makes her bend and faint in the bridegroom's
Hands. Doug doesn't let her drop. She yields
To him and rises in a kiss and laughs as she springs
Past papa and mama, divorced but friendly still,
Forgiving each other the canceled, torn-up pact.
The lovers dance under the golden elms,
Indifferent to the crackling of the leaves.


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