Listen to Sally Ball reading this poem. Like all the Saxon children, Leibniz sorts through leaves. Today he’s with his mother, stiffly dressed. They sit beneath a sycamore and he selects
eligible leaves for her to hold together
in a small bouquet. Yellow, green, and brown,
a single red one, a few of the yellows stippled
with green like drops of ink seeped
into a handkerchief. He’s six and his father
died this year. His mother can’t manage all the leaves,
and lets some go, which Liebniz doesn’t notice.
Then, absent-mindedly, she takes
a desiccated one he’s offering and lets it go,
and he is furious. Yes, yes, she says,
and takes it up, and a few minutes later
makes the same mistake.
These desiccated leaves are small clenched hands,
but the ones she likes, the ones anyone would choose,
are rubbery and strong and as big as Liebniz’s head.
She fans his face with their collection, a little tickle,
a bit of tenderness. He smiles and looking toward her
reaches for the ground; he checks his purchase
on the leaf he’d seen, and holds it by himself. Curiosity
and certainty collide; he knows he was making something
patterned, something whole—not what it was—and now it’s gone.