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At his feet, under grass-stems
low-leaning, or snapped off
cleanly at the base, lying
full length in the dirt,
still sleek and bright-pale
in this shade, lay last year's
cottonwood leaves, their
high polish ruined, though
some still showed as luminous
where brushed now by light
sifting down through the boughs
of the oak just above him.
The few oak leaves among them
had kept their dull brown --
weather-proof, tough -- their
hard, convex surfaces
with clean, scalloped edges
gripping the ground
with the just-visible
sharp hooks at their tips.
Once a doctor, treating
some other affl
iction, had told him
`No alcohol' and thereupon
at the end of the day,
he would take one swallow
of no substitute, but
absolutely the real thing,
straight from the bottle,
in its full -- if transient --
restorative powers
(then he let the ritual
lapse). -- What had Saint Ben
said, in his shining iambics,
but the whole truth? -- `In small