It’s called the abscission zone,
the separation zone,
formed at the base of the petiole
where the leaf stem is bound to the branch,
layers of cells that respond to autumn’s
signals for parting. Some deciduous trees lose
leaves one by one, the abscission zone’s cells
weakening, expanding, letting go over days
or weeks, each leaf twirling away from home,
mourned in the moment of its holy fall,
but should a sudden frost breathe its dark ice
upon a mulberry tree, imminent abscission triggers
the pervasive release of every leaf. Stems are severed
from their twigs, cluttered leaves spiral, sent descending,
all at once together, a sudden shattered intimacy, so bold
a letting go, branches fully gowned at dawn hang bared
by midday, exposed to winter’s piercing gaze, a mountain
of leaves blanketing the earth, fallen. Surrendered.
One autumn, our neighbors left in the night. No sign,
no story shared to ready us, no spiraling gradation of
leave-taking; we woke to the silence of an emptied home,
hollowed rooms, blank windows staring, abruptly abandoned.
Perhaps a sudden frost entered their lives, a private calamity
descended like dark ice, leaving them breathless with no choice
but letting go. Surrendered. Relationships sever precisely where
they bonded. Sometimes, falling is easier than hanging on,
sometimes, falling is kinder than farewell.
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