Leaves of Winter

By Jonah Rosario Inserra

Up and down Stuyvesant Avenue the leaves of winter are in full bloom.

Scattered about boughs of municipal parentage, out front of the Roosevelt Houses and Jesse Owens Park, they hiss in the February wind. Jeering at yuppies and hoodrats, doughboys and plainclothes cops alike, catcalling the seasonal life-cycle. In the greywashed days of warm-winter-not-quite-spring, while trains scream across the borough and slagheap snowdrifts melt, the leaves of winter hold court. Ugly and arrogant in defiant animation.

Ashy knuckles and salt-stained blue suede Pumas too hot to save for April are the lot of the urban peasantry. With profane suggestions (“Have a Great Day!”) the petrolskinned imposters of urban fecundity revel in their thousand year lifespans. Because though we know with Gregorian certainty that the kids’ll be out soon to crack open hydrants like miniature mountain springs, the reign of the “leaves” is secure; Mother Earth has long since left tihs place to the purview of a few, pitiful left-behinds . But when the barefoot urchins of the oneonetwotwo-one come out with ratchets clutched in creased, coconut-greased palms (cause they always do, goddamn ‘em) and the water hand-fluoridated by Uncle Samson himself starts to spatter the lowslung boughs of bagland, the false foliage will take the slight in stride, knowing that they will reign a hundred winters more. After red rust of the last oil-drum smoker has cooled in the late-August night. And well after the last barefoot neighborhood scamp has thrown his last water balloon across summer’s scalding pavement (a miss, as it often is for the denizens of towers whose names belonged to great men.)

But now, in the shadow of the elevated platform and the stoic tic-tac-toe tower compounds, the chlorophyll kings have yet to chase out the plasticine pretenders like money-lenders from the Temple. So they dance, arhythmically in the orange glow of not-night, painting vulgar shadows on the sidewalk. But look now–  a gust, and a hopeful frees itself from the crush– the indignity– of the garbage pile, lurching drunkenly, longingly upward. In full view of the world, this is how it happens. A naked conspiracy. Abetted by the very air that washes carbon over bark, the pretenders swell their ranks. The cellophane squatters who pour into the world on the backs of commuter convenience realize their putsch upon the very same breath-of-the-world that lifts gulls above the red shores of Gambia and cormorants ‘cross the cliffs of Cardiff. No wonder they snicker, those damn leaves of winter, salacious skins shed of consumer culture and salsalito sandwiches had without a thought.




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