There was a writer named A. He lived in a small town in Connecticut, and read great literature. He read this poem by Auden:
Ours yet not ours, being set apart
As a shrine to friendship,
Empty and silent most of the year,
This room awaits from you
What you alone, as visitor, can bring…
Anyway, that’s the beginning of the poem.
Sometimes A would stand on his lawn, flossing his teeth, listening to the crickets.
One day, as he was flossing, two joggers ran by. They were both in their late 30s—a couple. The man, who was slightly overweight, lagged behind. He looked exhausted. A imagined his name was Brad.
Brad wanted to stop running, but couldn’t—not in front of his girlfriend, A could tell.
A finished flossing his teeth, and went inside and wrote a poem. Here is the poem:
A Quarter Of A Quarter
A wrote very short poems. Probably this derived from his study of Buddhism.
A looked at his new poem. Did it mean anything? Or was it just clever? (Or was it not even clever?) He considered writing a new poem:
A Quarter Of A Quarter Of A Quarter
but decided against it.
We go through our whole lives knowing what a quarter is, but never once do we consider a quarter of a quarter. That struck A as strange—even wrong.
One thing was for certain. A loved the phrase “a quarter of a quarter.” He was careful to capitalize every word of it; that seemed important.
Next day, A was driving into his road when he came to a green truck and a wooden barricade. Between the truck and the barricade was a man with a brown beard.
A stopped his car. “What’s going on?” he asked the bearded man.
“We’re going to grind up the road, and put in a new one,” the latter revealed.
“When will then be?”
“Sometime soon,” smiled the bearded man.
A explained that he lived on the road, and the road worker moved aside the barricade to let him through.
The following day a machine that looked like a giant eggbeater appeared. Soon this machine began pulverizing A’s road.
Now A lived on a dirt road. When cars went by, they would raise large clouds of dust, like horses in romantic cowboy movies of A’s youth.
One day A woke up, then lay in bed remembering his dreams. The pulverizer drove by with a proud roar.
A thought he heard a stranger in the backyard. But when he looked, it was only 17 leaves falling from tree.
A went to his desk, and wrote this poem (in French):
Then he wrote the translation:
brown leaves belong?
No one wants dead leaves, A thought. They belong to no one, because they are useless. Besides, the wind blows them further and further from their original tree.
A had to gather all the leaves in his yard. He preferred to do it by hand. It seemed easier than using a rake, and also more personal.
The next morning, A took a wicker basket from his shed and picked up leaves. The leaves were cold in his fingers.
Sparrow lives with his wife, Violet Snow, in a doublewide trailer in Phoenicia, NY. He writes for the monthly arts magazine, Chronogram, and many of his slogans are published by Bad Habits, a prominent bumper sticker company (including I’M ALREADY AGAINST THE NEXT WAR). Sparrow plays ocarina in the post-athletic pop band Foamola. Follow him on Twitter at @Sparrow14.
Image: “Barn Versus Weeds” by ©Chuck Miller