nature, westen art, poems, montana, bozeman, poetry, painting

Fallen Leaves
by Sid Gustafson

In Legion Park of Small Town, Montana
Birthplace of fallen leaves golding and bent
Winded heaps lie under half-limbed, half-naked trees. Flume of sky
Is big over the farmed flatness beyond. Snow skiffs
The foothills to the north.

The park once legionnaire is now
Safe. Kindergarten colors of no-hurt playsets
Replace cast-iron slingshots that once jettisoned kids new measures
To piled leaves. A sanctuary where my
Children play and I watch.

Skin glows and warms, shirts sleeveless.
Soon the southern sun is cooled by the westerly breeze of
Tobacco Roots distant. On and off wind that teases a falling leaf through its helical
Modus operandus. The Legion Park statue is gone, lost
To cycles of time, and the children play safe.

Long gone statue. First the hand was
Jacked off. Ragged metal became a skeletal gaff
His strongarm chipped away. I helped. Soon the east arm was vandalled,
Leaving a poised elbow re-bar sharp and
Pointing naked from the helpless torso.

Back then, at night, hidden behind uncut hedges and
Heavy limbed trees there lurked Legionnaire danger, and rape!
After that incident the statue of the Indian-killer major lost his nose. He could not be
Scalped so his ears were hammered to dust. Shamed and crumbled,
He departed one day toppled in a fire engine, siren lost.

This day it is the wrinkled trunks of
Unclimbable cottonwood, branches high and
Bared, the park surrounded by defrocked hedges of caraganda. Cotoneaster
Festooned low. Hidden childhoods pruned dangerously past, forever lost with high tree Climbing. Adults patrol, eyes askim.
They see in now and the Indian-killer is gone.