THE OPTIMIST

Greg Keeler painting

A slight breeze

As I rake the leaves

From the yard

Into the street,

Piles to be collected

In the next few weeks

By the sons of the city

Fathers. It must be

The farmer in me

That so enjoys this fall

Task, or the little kid

Curious to see worms,

Molds, beetles & bugs,

Treasures uncovered

On the ground (cigarette

Butts, bottle caps, God-

Knows-what, a Burger

King French fry bag).

And it is a rare moment

Anymore when people

Populate their front yards,

Outside their house

To greet folks on the street

Like this old guy

On his bike loaded down

With everything he owns

In wire panniers each side

Of the rear tire, his front

Basket battened down

With a bungee. Suspenders,

Wool pants, and greasy-frayed

Coat, he stops to watch

Me whisk the leaves

Into the gutter. I nod

And speak, “Howdy.” He grins,

Not a tooth in his head.

“Nice day,” I say.

“You must be an optimist!”

He shoots back. A gust

Of wind kicks up,

And I laugh, “Well, yeah.

I guess I am.” He patters on

About an early snow—

He can feel it in his bones.

I listen. We chat

About the weather,

The futility of man—

As I continue to rake

The leaves. “Yes, sir!

I’d definitely say

You are an optimist!”

He repeats as he pedals away.

I pause to survey the job:

The leaves, the lawn, the street,

And wipe a bead of sweat

Trickling from my brow.

A snowflake appears

On my sleeve. Then another

And others dot the leaves.

Looking up I watch them

Flutter through the trees’

Stark branches—then resume

Raking. It seems important

To finish before dark.

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