Counting the leaves
by Michael Mark

She has lost her ability
to count at 93.

By the time I get to the 34th leaf
she has asked me twice
what am I doing and when
is the person who lives in the house
coming back?

The person is her daughter, her second
child of four.

It was my thought to count all
the leaves of one tree in the garden
where we sit for four sometimes five hours

‘Isn’t it miraculous
how every leaf was born
and will die and will find its way
to becoming a new life?”

She doesn’t respond to
my clumsy hospice speak,
offered as a small light
for her haziness.

With my finger on leaf 67,
I explain again that the woman is Sandy,
one of her 3 loving daughters
and that she will be back,
‘in 2 hours with food for dinner.’

I don’t mention my decision to count
just one branch’s leaves.

She nods at the new information
and tells me
yellow always looks good on me.

I don’t know what to make of the “always,”
though she has complimented me
when I’ve worn yellow before.
She breathes with my counting,
sometimes clapping.

“237 leaves! 237! And that's just one branch!
Can you imagine how many are on this whole tree?”

Her smile broadens mine.
This time she answers my question,
“Numbers make no sense in nature.”

And for the second time in a few minutes
I am the one lost.

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