Jumping in Leaves

By Joseph Gross

May 18, 2020

Jumping in Leaves

Somewhere after the turn of the millennium I slid from leaf jumper to leaf raker, and so on this smoky November afternoon I hold down my job for the boy in front of me during what will be his only non-digital hour of the day. His blond, curly hair captures bits of maple and oak and curly strands from the hostas I raked through. “I love the fall,” he says. I am surprised that he has an opinion on the season. His challenges with language and reluctance to share have long blocked us from his thoughts. He does not, I notice, say autumn, a word that sounds to me now like his diagnosis.

He’s impressed with my raking, the way I pull and fluff from the bottom of the pile between jumps. “Good job,” he says, and I feel some pride at my adult strength and leverage.

He runs laps around the yard that culminate in a cannonball or a backflop or a headfirst dive. He has shed his gloves, coat, hat, despite the forty-degree temps. I think of my own jumping age, the familiar mold and fruity cedar smell down in the pile, the desire to be buried completely.

“Cover me up!” he says, and I do. I cover him, and in this way we’re almost as close as we can get, him sweaty and scratchy and hidden and hearing his own breath, me seemingly alone, leaning on my rake, the air thick from burn barrels. Both of us waiting for him to emerge.


Joseph Gross writes poems, essays, and stories, some of which have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Redivider, Salamander, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Atticus Review, and currently directs a public library in southwestern Michigan.


Image by utroja0 courtesy of Pixabay

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