A Hatbox Full of Michigan Autumn

Author | Marianne Peel

The first time you ventured
to the frozen tundra of this place
you wore flannel lined jeans
double thickness of insulation,
protecting your legs
from the damp chill
of a Michigan autumn.

It was only September
and I hadn’t powered up the furnace,
me with my still-open windows.
By the second night
you bought flannel sheets for the bed,
a belly warming comfort.

And I told you about the time
my mother sent me
a hatbox full of Michigan leaves
that first year of my teaching in California.
“Because you won’t experience autumn this year,” her note said.
The only gift she’d ever mailed.

I shared the turning leaves with students,
telling them of their crackle beneath my shoes every fall.
How I would count the treasured red maples,
ironing them between rectangles of wax paper
then cutting them into bookmarks, quietly slipping them
between the pages I would read late into the night. 

Your feet were startled by the fragments
that always blew in through the front door,
the vestibule a carpet of leaf shards.
No amount of clear-quick door slamming or sweeping
could keep them away. I remember your wearing socks that fall.
To protect your soles, you told me.

I remember walking with you
hearing our steps crunch along.
We never knew leaves could make such music
under the rhythm of our weight. 
When we returned
there were fragments of fallen leaves in our hair.

And so we lit spice candles,
brewed cloves and cinnamon
on the back burner of the stove.
We groomed one another
weaving fingers through each other’s hair,
ferreting out the fragments
of oak, cottonwood, and linden leaves

About the Author | Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. She is now retired, doing Field Instructor work at Michigan State University. She recently won 1st prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine. She also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. In addition, Marianne has been published in Muddy River Review; Silver Birch Press; Eastlit; Persephone’s Daughters; Encodings: A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives: Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing; Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine; Ophelia’s Mom; Jellyfish Whispers; Remembered Arts Journal. Marianne also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey. She is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele, who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey. Marianne also taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China for three summers, and she also toured several provinces in China with the Valpraiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo, in January of 2016. Recently, Marianne was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop in June 2016. This fall, she journeyed to Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, where she took part in an amazing Narrative Poetry Writing Seminar.

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