The leaves rusted in the late winds
of September, the ash trees bowed
to no one I could see. Finches
quarrelled among the orange groves.

I was about to say something final
that would capture the meaning
of autumn’s arrival, something
suitable for bronzing

something immediately recognizable
as so large a truth it’s totally untrue,
when one small white cloud—not much
more than the merest fragment of mist—

passed between me and the pale
thin cuticle of the mid-day moon
come out to see the traffic and dust
of Central California. I kept quiet.

The wind stilled, and I could hear
the even steady talking of the leaves,
the lawn’s burned hay gasping
for breath, the pale soil rising

only to fall between earth and heaven,
if heaven’s there. The world would escape
to become all it’s never been
if only we would let it go

streaming toward a future without
purpose or voice. In shade the ground
darkens, and now the silver trails
stretch from leaf to chewed off leaf

of the runners of pumpkin to disappear
in the cover of sheaves and bowed grass.
On the fence blue trumpets of play
almost closed—music to the moon,

laughter to us, they blared all day
though no one answered, no one
could score their sense of harmony
before they faded in the wind and sun.

Philip Levine, “Snails”, in What Work Is