Arizonan Alberto Rios probably observed this shamel ash often, its year-round green leaves never changing. On this particular day, however, he recognizes a difference—a yellow leaf. In doing so he offers us a glimpse of how something small yet unexpected may stay with us, perhaps even become a secret pleasure.
A Yellow LeafA yellow leaf in the branches Of a shamel ash In the front yard; I see it, a yellow leaf Among so many. Nothing distinguishes it, Nothing striking, striped, stripped, Strident, nothing More than its yellow On this day, Which is enough, which makes me Think of it later in the day, Remember it in conversation With a friend, Though I do not mention it— A yellow leaf on a shamel ash On a clear day In an Arizona winter, A January like so many.
Reprinted from The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, Copper Canyon Press, 2002, by permission of Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2002 by Alberto Rios, a writer and professor at Arizona State University. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.