Tim Hall’s “Autumn Leaves” & Kali Lightfoot’s “Grocery Gavotte, 5:30 a.m.”

Autumn Leaves

by Tim Hall

To live in this skin,
Is to fear breathing,
Is to have no control of breathing,
Is to walk around with two puffs left in my inhaler,
hesitant to use it,
worried that I won’t be able to breath someday. 
To live in this skin,
Is to scream with no one listening,
Is to bruise easily
Is to bleed easily
Is to die easily.
To live in this skin,
Is to walk and be watched,
Is to grow eyes in the back on my head,
Is to be seen always,
yet steadily disappear.
To live in this skin,
Is to pass along burden to my offspring,
Is to teach them to love their shade
Is to have to teach them to love their shade
Is to prepare them for war over loving their shade.
To live in this skin,
Is to see bodies break like branches,
Is to see whole forests chopped down out of fear of their growth
Out of concern of their seeds spreading
Out of hope that their roots aren’t grounded.
To live in my skin,
Is to know my roots are grounded in the soil, rich
from the blood of my ancestors,
Is to know the families that came before me nourish my tree,
Is to see their shade in my bark
Their blood in my sap
Their tears in my leaves
Only, to be reminded of the lakes formed from their crying
when I see leaves at the feet of trees in autumn.
To live in my skin is to keep standing,
even when the trees around me are chopped to pieces,
Is to know my seeds can’t be wiped out of existence,
Is to plant my roots in bloodied soil
Is to believe my tears aren’t shed in vain
That my leaves shouldn’t have to fall in constant morning
That my life matters.
To live in my skin is to grow,
Even when the world around me walks past my pile of leaves,
Staring at its beautiful colors,
Not realizing they, are the reason my leaves fall. 

Previously anthologized in RISE (an anthology of Power and Unity) (Vagabond Books, 2017). 

Writing Prompt: 
What is a story of your resilience, if it were an aspect of nature?

Grocery Gavotte, 5:30 a.m.

by Kali Lightfoot

                        At the Senior Citizen hour, Market Basket 3/25/2020

Our carts roll aisle-by-aisle
in stately 4/4 time, no Top 40
Muzak, no youth with their
hip-hop, pop-and-lock.

Just head music as back-up
for creaky morning joints, still
sleepy ears. My cart fresh,
cleaned at the front door,

I foxtrot from dairy
to cereal, from canned soup
to produce, frozen food,
and ice cream; quick-step

past empty shelves for paper
goods and disinfectants.
We all maintain always
the 6-foot dance space

except when that old guy
stops mid aisle, not defiant,
just oblivious—the dancer
without a dance.

The cashier smiles and I realize
I haven’t looked into a face
outside myself in days. She asks
“how are you?” as I do-si-do

with the checker behind me.
I answer “doing well…and
that has a whole new meaning.”
The bagger grins as I waltz

to the car. I travel morning
streets, so empty now. At home
I cue up music—two more
weeks of tango with my shadow.

Previously published in Dispatches from 2020 (CavanKerry Press).

Writing Prompt:
Consider something in your external world that has changed as a result of COVID-19. Write about it using an extended metaphor (like the dances in “Grocery Gavotte” above), or another specific poetic device that recurs throughout the poem.

Tim Hall

Tim Hall is a musician and performance poet from Detroit, MI, now residing in Boston. His poetry draws inspiration from his lived experiences–charting the nuances of blackness, masculinity, and the beauties of life. He’s an Assistant Professor in the Professional Music Department at Berklee College of Music, was nominated for Session Musician of the Year by the Boston Music Awards (2018, 2019), received a 2019 Artist Luminary Award from local youth arts non-profit Zumix, and was honored by WBUR’s Artery 25 as 1 of 25 millennials of color impacting Arts and Culture in Boston.

Kali Lightfoot

Kali Lightfoot‘s poems and reviews of poetry books have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Lavender Review, Broadsides to Books, Star 82 Review, and Gyroscope. Her work has been nominated twice for Pushcart Prize, and once for Best of the Net. Kali earned an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2015, and her debut collection is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Find her at kali-lightfoot.com.