Cheryl Moskowitz





You came with me to see my father. ‘This is your son-in-law,’
I told him. He looked mildly pleased as though having something
in law made the visit all the more significant. The sun was
unusually strong for November and the season’s colours were everywhere.
‘Let’s write a cinquain!’ I suggested, thinking we might capture the
scene and that a poem of five lines and twenty-two syllables might
still be within reach if we all worked together. The first line should
be our subject, two syllables long. ‘What shall we call this? I held up
what the vine maple had dropped. ‘Leaf,’ he said. ‘Oh yes,’ I said,
‘but we need one more syllable.’ ‘Leaves’ he said, his intelligence
outmatching the form. ‘Brown leaf?’ I offered. His was better.
The second line is four, it should tell us what it looks like.
He looked at me quizzically. What else was there to describe? ‘It’s curled,’
you said ‘and dry.’ Coming to my rescue just when I was about to fall,
headfirst into my father’s void. ‘Oh yes, curled and dry, and look!
There are veins just like on your hands.’ My father stretched out his
fingers and gazed at the underside of his wrist and the back of his hand,
following the trajectory. Dorsal digital veins, blue rivers coursing
Basilic and Cephalic routes. Something flickered, a doctor’s curiosity,
and for a moment, that was all the description necessary. Six syllables
for the third line, something to do with purpose. My father looked incredulous.
A leaf is just a leaf, surely. Nothing more. I was harrying and he did
not want to be harried. ‘An action?’ I coaxed. ‘It blows in the wind,’
you said and right there, that’s why I married you. Swooping in like
Superman to save me. Yes, yes. The wind blows, the leaf falls and
there we have it, six syllables. Two, four, six... and now, eight.
At the sound of counting my father finds renewed interest,
something he’d once been good at. Eight syllables to tell us what
the subject feels like. My father nods his head and breathes out
a sigh that sounds almost like laughing. You suggest ‘sad’ and I say
‘wistful,’ and we both think about how we will leave here soon.
The last line is an echo of the first, two syllables. The sun has
changed its position and now we are sitting in almost complete shade.
My father pulls his cap on over his head and you release the brakes
to push the chair on ahead. I wait to write the whole thing down
for him and place it with the leaf in his room where he can see it.
brown leaf
such dry curled veins
falls from trees when wind blows
a bit sad, wistful, autumn starts



(Originally posted December 28, 2014)


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