Where are the leaves that branches bore?
They’re falling fast on forest floor,
A cornucopia outspread,
Of orange, yellow, brown, and red:
Reminders of a settled score.

Ah this, my gloomy guarantor
Henceforth of what I must endure:
The dull, the dormant, and the dead.
___Where are the leaves?

The autumn breath that some adore
And gaudy foliage galore
Beget a harvest not for bread
But for decaying forest bed.
I yearn for sylvan green décor.
___Where are the leaves?



Jeff Kemper has been a biology teacher, biblical studies instructor, editor, and painting contractor. He lives with his wife, Sue, in York County, Pennsylvania.

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22 Responses

  1. Allen Ireland

    Love it! It’s Robert Frostean but not. Any poem that makes you want to read it over and over again is a great one. Look forward to more!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, the rondeau is one of my favorite forms and you have done it every justice. I love the repeating line and your yearning “for sylvan green décor”, though here in Texas I’m longing for a “cornucopia” (great word) of “orange, yellow, brown, and red”. My backyard is going from summer green to winter bare… no gaudily and giddily-beautiful in between. Thank you for fond memories of blazing Autumn days.

    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, Susan. I have a strong dislike for winter, to put it mildly, and Autumn is its harbinger. If I could have my way, the year would consist of 12 June’s. But I doubt that eternal June would work in Texas!

  3. Yael

    That’s so beautiful, I love it!
    It also happens to capture perfectly what late fall feels and looks like to me here in eastern Tennessee.

  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    I love your alliterations, and the -or rhymes, especially guarantor/endure/galore.

  5. Margaret Coats

    This really speaks to a precise moment of the year! Even in places where the seasons aren’t quite the same as in York County, we understand the plaintive repetition of the rondeau question. Where I live, autumn colors are still coming in and won’t go down to be “a decaying forest bed” for some time yet. By the way, I added the “a” there to suggest a slight metrical variation to your music.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    You know damn well where the leaves are, Jeff. You’ve probably already raked them up and piled them in some far corner. It took me a while to like this poem, but at last I do. It’s hard to write an autumn poem that isn’t trite, but you have put a new spin on the subject, and for that alone you should be congratulated — as you have been. As far as inserting the article “a” goes (as Dr. Coasts discusses above), the metrical variation consists of substituting an anapest for an iamb. This, in itself, is not a great idea, but you will notice that the added article can be elided so readily that the meter doesn’t really change; instead, what you’ve got is a little twist in the vocal or the mental enunciation. The are a number of things in Sedia’s essay with which I disagree, and if only I would make every idea an ideal, then you already might have read what I have to say on this subject.

    • Jeff Kemper

      Well, C.B., I’m glad you read it more than once! Thanks for your input.
      I do not normally rake leaves, for I have a spruce in my back yard and further back an oak and a walnut, but I don’t care about the distant deciduous trees’ dead leaves. Where the leaves fall, there they lie (to spin a line from Ecclesiastes). As for me, when I look ahead or up, I lament their absence.
      As for the anapest, or any metrical variation, I suppose I might employ it in a poem and see how it sounds. I was just wondering if poets employ it for emphasis, or for any other functional effect besides for variation’s sake.

      • C.B. Anderson

        As far as I am concerned, Jeff, metrical variations do little to make a poem more interesting or spice things up. The best reason for such variations is to expand the range of possible expression. Variation for variation’s sake is folly. Let’s say we begin a poem with:

        In the dark days ahead we’ll make new plans.

        Here we have a pyrrhic and a spondee substituting for the first two iambs. The idea is clear, but to express the idea using two iambs at the beginning of the line is not easy and might require an adjustable wrench to make that happen.

        Another example:

        Often at night I look into the sky.

        This is a choriambic substitution for the first two iambs, or, to make it simpler, a trochee substituted for the first iamb. Here, too, you should see that without this possibility expressing the idea might be a problem, especially if you are committed to keeping “sky” as an end rhyme.

        Back to your leaves: If you don’t have a lawn you want to preserve, then there is no pressing reason to rake leaves.

      • Jeff Kemper

        I gather from what you’re saying is that the goal of metric variation is simply greater ease of expression, i.e., more naturally flowing verse, when the metrical constraints become too stringent for the available lexical tools. Is that correct? Is that all?

      • C.B. Anderson

        Jeff, I never said anything like “naturally flowing.” There is no such thing in poetry. Every word ever expressed in poetry has come about by dint of effort applied by authors willing exert a bit of elbow grease. And no, that’s not all. Elaboration of existing modes and experimental endeavors are always in play, but it’s a good idea to cleave to the norm unless you have a damn good theory or praxis by which you imagine you might supplant that norm. Everybody wants to be Dylan Thomas, but, God knows, there was only one Dylan Thomas. Keep to the straight and narrow and use “legal” substitutions as necessary, but don’t go crazy unless you consider yourself the second coming of W.B. Yeats.

  7. David Watt

    Jeff, I also appreciated your original treatment of the autumnal theme. I am one of those readers who have read your well written poem more than once.


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