American Life in Poetry

Share on Nextdoor

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 Leaf

A 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. Send comments to [email protected]

Scroll to read more Culture articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.