Neighbors shovel leaves to the road’s shoulder set ablaze,  

flame-prickled piles of ash eddy and lick the edge.


Rural towns in autumn smell like wet leaves, mildew, rust.

Forgotten thresher blades corrode; pale, jagged cornstalk stumps 

bristle the fields. Burning day means 


a chill has drifted home again to settle a gray haze 

over the grass. Green seeps from leaves,

scabbing them brown. But we don’t leave them—


we don’t let them languish on our lawns to rejoin the earth 

at their own pace. We gather them, a harvest of endings,

and burn them, fill the air with acrid billows that waft into the road,


filter through open windows like memories of something lost,

something that stings the eyes.


Issa M. Lewis is the author of Infinite Collisions (Finishing Line Press) and a graduate of New England College’s MFA program. A runner-up in the 2017 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize and 2013 winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, her poems have appeared in Jabberwock, Panoply, and others.