David Hernandez

     for Emily Rapp

Then it was January.
Then a single leaf, unmoored
from a maple on campus,

flipped, sailed
the air, flipped again before descending
a spiral staircase carved from wind. 

Three stories it twirled
downward, settled on
the blue backpack of a student

lumbering to class.  For yards I trailed
yards behind him,
past Humanities Hall, across

Aldrich Park, the noonday sun
through the looming trees
making scraps of light

waterfall from his head,
over his backpack
where the leaf

still clung, a bright logo. 
I only could think about your boy,
this illness quickly

dismantling him.
Then this thought: Still
this world. 

Then this: He will go without
knowing what he missed.
As when the student shouldered

his backpack to the other side, the leaf
fell away from him, landing
on a square of pavement,

pale yellow on lunar gray,
like a hand in a snapshot
waving hello across the years.