The Last Day of Summer


It was the middle of the afternoon,
the time of day in the south when the
air thickens and dark clouds bloom.
A young black woman, wearing a bright
yellow dress, hurried along a dirt alley
shaped by poverty and neglect. For me,
the alley was a shortcut. For her, I had
the feeling it was something else.
If it wasn’t for the baby on her shoulder,
and the mud clinging to the wheels of
her suitcase, I think she would have
been running.
Perhaps a photograph might tell the
story better than these words, but at the
time I felt like I couldn’t take anything else
from her, and besides that—sometimes
a lens can stop you from seeing.
When I think back, I can still feel the air
closing in and hear the trees whispering.
And, when I close my eyes, I can still see
all those red maple leaves falling from the
sky; so many, that it seemed as though
the clouds were full of butterflies.