Leaves Behind

In size and shape and symmetry
The leaves upon a maple tree
Are like small selfies of the tree itself.
And in their veins the leaves display
The trunk and branches in a way
That equals any etching on my shelf.

Whatever in my life is kind
And good I pray that there will be
A leaf or two I’ll leave behind
That in some way resemble me.



In Ten Years I’ll be Eighty-Two

No way! In ten years, I’ll be eighty-two!
The same age that my father died! So what
In heaven’s name is left for me to do
Before my final scene in life gets cut?

Before the Covid virus came along
I thought that maybe I’d go on a cruise
To somewhere . . . anywhere! Don’t get me wrong,
I really didn’t care which one I’d choose.

But now that I have wasted two full years
While waiting for this Covid mess to end,
My “pay-it-forward plans” are in arrears,
And how it all plays out will just depend

On what I do with every “if” and “when”
That’s left between the here-and-now and then.



Lemons Fall

I sit beneath a lemon tree
And watch as wind-blown lemons fall.
Each fallen fruit designed to be
A yellow orb, a globe, or ball.

Like planets falling from the sky
Each bitter, puckered, sour sphere—
Being severed by the Fates to die—
Draws from my grieving eyes a tear.

I hold a lemon in my hand—
How sad to find one’s life cut off
And hard for me to understand
How long a life is long enough.

For as the lemons fall and die
Perhaps tomorrow or today
The time will come when you and I
Will also fall and pass away.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, Dwell Time, Light, Deronda Review, The Road Not Taken, Fevers of the Mind, Sparks of Calliope, Dancing Poetry, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse. He was honored with being chosen as the winner of the 2021 SCP International Poetry Competition.

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17 Responses

  1. g.KayeNaegele

    Yes, the questions loom large as the decades pass, and your thoughts become more and more obvious, even pressing. I enjoyed the poems, and the metaphors. It is a difficult thing to plan for successfully, because things change so quickly now with every decade. I guess all one can do is to make the best in whatever one does when confronted, which you have done in your thoughtful work. Well done.

  2. Jeremiah Johnson

    Paul, I couldn’t help posting this link in response to your lemon poem:

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      P.S. – I love the simple directness of “Leaves Behind,” while at the same time you bring in an observation that I’m sure few have noticed. Your attention to the minutiae of nature calls to mind Georgia O’Keefe. I feel like this could become one of those classics – posted on refrigerator doors for its surface beauty as well as appreciated for the deeper message.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Ty, Jeremiah. You must be approaching mortality yourself if you have memories of P P & M singing this old song!

  3. James A. Tweedie

    As I wrote the leaf poem I found that my rhyme pattern was asymmetrical: AABCCB DEDE

    As I read and reread the poem, it seemed (to me at least) to work quite well. I’m curious what you, the readers think?

    • Margaret Coats

      James, the rhyme scheme is aabccb dada. This gives your second stanza a sonic reflection of the first because of the repetition of the /a/ rhyme. I think that works nicely. There is no reason the scheme (or indeed the shape of the poem) should have perfect symmetry because you are speaking of symmetry. Leaves and poems have multifarious means with which to shape a point–and rhyme schemes are rarely symmetrical if you mean abcddcba instead of ababcdcd. Congratulations on getting such a lovely photo of a maple leaf!

      And thanks to Jeremiah Johnson for putting up the sweet Lemon Tree song.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Margaret, you are awesome as always, catching the repetition of the opening rhyme in the second stanza. I missed that completely and, as you point out, it contributes to the effective unity of the poem.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Symmetry, James, as far as I know, is not a necessity. Regularity is the only true necessity. A poet designs his/her house according to the poet’s predilections. As long as one is regular (and I am not referring to bowel movements) there is minimal risk of upsetting any hypothetical apple cart. Every stanza has a life unto itself (unless one is fixated on a fixed form.

  4. Paul Freeman

    Three very different poems in tone.

    I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of Lemons Fall and was reminded of Neruda’s Ode to a Lemon.

    The duality of meaning integral to “‘Leaves’ Behind” was also a very thought-provoking piece of poetry.

    In ‘In Ten Years I’ll be Eighty-Two’, I sympathise over your lost two years and lost cruise – but there’s still time.

  5. Jeff Eardley

    So much to ponder here. I love your fractal “Leaves behind” and I too will be 82 in ten years, just as we have, in the UK, been told that, post-Covid, we are in for a decade of economic misery. It is all a bit depressing, particularly for the myriad lemons that will soon be dropping from the trees over here. Thanks for the thoughtful read.

  6. Alena Casey

    I like how briefly and prettily “Leaves Behind” makes its observation, and surprise concluding thought. A well-executed poem. The use of “selfie” in that poem was fascinating to me. That’s not a word I see used poetically, and you made me pause and think about it.

    And likening falling lemons to sour planets severed by the Fates! Striking!

    Thanks. Your poems are always a pleasure to read.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Alena, Many, many, years ago when I was working my way through college on a paint crew, we entertained each other by creating relatively cogent sentences that no one had ever spoken or written before.

      The following can serve to represent the sort of sentences we would create:

      “The summer afternoon shimmered as if viewed through the rising steam of a demonic humidifier.”

      I mention this so you will know that I consider using words like “selfie” in a poem–or, for that matter, any other word or any combination of words without exception no matter how unprecedented–to be not only permitted but absolutely required IF the word fills a need that the word was created to fill in the first place. Shakespeare used any and every word he could wrap his tongue (or pen) around, including common vulgarities that had been spoken for ages but never previously written down by sensitive literary types until he had the nerve, the audacity, and the creative inspiration to do so. And if he couldn’t think of a word that met his immediate needs, he simply made up a new one–something I have also done on many occasions, (in fact I made one up yesterday, “lightful.” Lovely, don’t you think?)

      After all,

      Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
      Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?
      Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
      Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip?

      Who was that man? I’d like to shake his hand
      He made my baby fall in love with me,


      And, by the way, thanks for the comment.

  7. C.B Anderson

    In “Leaves Behind”, James, you have used fairly ordinary diction to create a poem full of mystery and more than a hint of revelation. You tied a difficult knot that was satisfyingly unraveled at the end. In a word, it was an exquisite gem. “How long a life is long enough” in “Lemons Fall” is a brilliant (implied) question for which I have no brilliant answer. All I can say is that I want to live until I die. As for the middle poem, in ten years I’ll either be eighty-three or six feet under. The wisdom you impart at the conclusion of the poem just shows that oldsters such as us are worth something. Memento mori.

  8. Damian Robin


    These are gorgeous poems of sweet simplicity.
    They gently face the wants of our mortality.

    They help us pass the lemoned tooth of our demise :
    We need to taste what’s sharp (like you) but what’s the prize ?

    Is there a paradise as good as we might think ?
    And have we done enough to get it ? Will we sink

    Because a small or massive failing drowns us out ?
    Only our belief can cast away our doubt,

    Accept the fact that human bodies’ forms decay,
    That we are scared but we must brave it anyway*,

    That human body death is only of this earth
    Unless our soul’s so lost it’s lost its heaven’s-worth,

    And if our thoughts of life beyond our death are real
    What will thoughts of life before this life reveal ?

    * I stole that idea from here
    Abel’s Anthem (The Secret of the Brave)
    The Legacy Saga by Michael Pietrack

    also look at

    but do come back to James’ poems here:

    for their subtlety, wit, and their ability to raise a lot of praise in the comments :^)


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