by Garth Gilchrist, 1999

When I touched the yellow maple leaves
They entered me
Without my knowing

This morning after I’d picked them
I had their gold sweetness
In my veins

It was after holding them in my hands
Upon my skin
In the slant light dewy morning
Plunging my nose deep in amongst them
Wet and cold, snuffling
The autumn scent
Suffused into air and me

My eyes fixed on their open hands
Veined like mine
My fingers traced their fingers

Crimson stems in my palms
Conduits through which shape
And substance entered —
Only vaguely I sensed
Some ephemeral
Sap entering me

This morning, after
In my own bed I woke
Bathed full and swimming in yellow light
That hovers in and around
Smooth maple branches in late October
On crisp mornings

I’d fondled the seeds, too,
Fuzzy winged pods
Full of imperceptible roots
Bark and limbs
A million invisible leaves
I’d given handfuls to the waiting children
They went twirling
Whirling through the sky
Eager, alive with mapleness
Maybe for this

I woke that morning
Wholly content, pierced through
Astounded in my bed, wrapped
In the warm light
Of maples

Garth Gilchrist of San Rafael, Ca, is an environmental storyteller whose prize-winning performances as John Muir bring the American naturalist to life for thousands of listeners each year. Garth’s stories all spring from a life-long love of nature and people, and illumine our interdependence. He can be reached at