The pages are yellowed

like old piano keys

untouched for years.

The first page is dated February 27, 1969

in my handwriting.

I purchased the paperback

through a school book order

in a winter of big rains.

Bullied by rain we stayed indoors for days,

only going from home to school and back,

rain washing out our school time and weekends,

no outdoor play for weeks,

a thorough washing.

While the rain fell and fell, I fell

into the warm, dry arms of the book’s pages.

I savoured the crisp smell of new book,

fresh pages full of poems

(some with pictures!)

written by poets I had never heard of:

Carl Sandburg

William Stafford

Donald Hall

Maxine Kumin

May Swenson

Langston Hughes 

Edna St.Vincent Millay

and so many more.

(I was only twelve!)

Through the years

I forgot the book

sandwiched on crowded shelves,

shoulder to shoulder with other books,

hidden in boxes.

I cradle the book in my hands

for the first time in decades.

Its brittle pages are cracked like dry skin.

Who knows when the light greencover came off,

the lost limb of a brave soldier

taped lovingly back on.

(Now the back cover is about to come off.)

Reading the poems now

I remember the days of the long rains

when the book and I were still new,

before either of us was torn or cracked,

fifty one years ago.

Surely this book was the seed

of my love of poetry.

Surely those heavy rains 

watered it all those years ago.

Those once unknown names took root.

They have filled my life

with their endless branches,

their eternal blossoms.

FIRE                                         OCTOBER, 1967

The hills were evil that autumn,

scary and full of fire.

The fires raged for days.

We could see the night skies 

bleeding flames far away.

I was sure

the fires would crawl

on orange knees and elbows

to our house.

The fires followed us everywhere,

breathing smoke all over  us.

There was nothing to think about

but burning things,

nothing to smell

but the eye-watering sharpness 

of the burning.

It was as if God himself

were on fire.

Smoke blindfolded the sun.

Dirty skies hung heavy

over the town.

Warm winds brought ashes

to the backyard,

dropping them like tiny white flower petals.

It seemed heaven was falling.

I was a child catching ashes,

amazed to see bits of houses and trees

on my skin,

scraps of people’s lives in my hands.

So this is how God feels,

I thought.

Maybe even the Devil.

SYLVIA                                         1979

I envied your darkness,

the glamour of your madness.

I wanted to be like you.

I waited for depression

to drop blue curtains

over my life,

searched for excuses to be unhappy:

nights spent alone,

the sadness of mirrors,

the imminence of death.

I picked pain from my days,

collecting it like overripe

blue-black fruit

bleeding with seeds

and sickening sweetness.

Everyday of your life was autumn, 

everything  falling,

falling down.

How lucky to be so lost,

to crave death like a cigarette.

How simple a life

with no hope.

How easy to be so empty,

to earn an endless supply 

of suffering,

to have the right to write

the poetry that only you

could write,

to be so broken, 

to be you.

Kathryn de Leon is from Los Angeles, California but is now living in England.  She started writing poetry more years ago than she cares to admit. She has been published in several small magazines in the US, and very recently in a few UK publications, including The Cabinet of Heed and Poetry Wivenhoe Poems.


  1. Kathryn de Leon, I loved your poems. Beautifully written. It’s such a joy when one discovers the joy of words.

    I was a child catching ashes,
    amazed to see bits of houses and trees
    on my skin,
    scraps of people’s lives in my hands.

    How perfect an image.
    Thank you.