I pull the rake across the yard,
swooshing together a heap
of leaves from the tulip poplar by the barn.
No longer summer green,
the mottled leaves
are now yellow and brown,
the color of box turtles.
Leaf upon leaf upon leaf
I pile them up in a crib
where they will sleep all winter,
hibernating in a den beneath a bare tree.
But the dawning of spring will reveal
a transformation that has taken place
in the mound of poplar leaves
on the edge of the woods.
And in those early days of spring
I will carry these leaves transfigured
into the garden, mixing humus and soil,
so that by nature's alchemy,
what once was tulip poplar will become tomatoes and okra for our table.