The Last Leaf

I’m hiding
from my kids, searching
for solitude. Outside,
a single sepia leaf hangs
on an oak tree limb,

swaying back-and-forth,
back-and-forth in the wind,
like a park swing dismount.
This leaf survived
gales that downed power lines.

It survived snow—enough
for the neighbor kids to build
a seven-foot snowman.
This month, the new leaf-buds
have been birthed on branches,

yet the leaf hangs,
like the last baby tooth rotting
in a lipstick-adorned mouth.
Will I want to hang on,
when my life’s stem grows

weak? Surely, I’d like to sway
with the breeze, feel
the rain on my wrinkled skin,
listen to silence punctuated
by the crickets and creek.

Now, a school bus, heavy
with children, rushes past.
The leaf, torn from its lifeline,
wafts to the ground and lands

on the cracked concrete.


After a rain,
droplets hang
from every branch,

round bellies
pregnant with
energy, purple

with possibility.
Gravity is a sage
midwife, offering

massages and chants,
warm rags and prayers.
Finally, the mothers

splatter into dozens
of fluid offspring—

no longer

as themselves.

Bethany Jarmul

Bethany Jarmul is an Appalachian writer and poet. She’s the author of two chapbooks and one poetry collection. Her work has been published in many magazines including Rattle, Brevity, Salamander, and One Art. Her writing was selected for Best Spiritual Literature 2023 and Best Small Fictions 2024, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Wigleaf Top 50. Connect with her at or on social media: @BethanyJarmul.

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