What?! Another Falling Leaves Poem! Yes – With A Difference

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Falling Leaves

I’ve read about falling leaves in fifty thousand poems novels
   and so on
watched leaves falling in fifty thousand movies
seen leaves fall fifty thousand times
              fall drift and rot
felt their dead shush shush fifty thousand times
              underfoot in my hands on my fingertips
but I’m still touched by falling leaves
              especially those falling on boulevards
              especially chestnut leaves
              and if kids are around
              if its sunny
              and I’ve got news for friendship
especially if my heart doesn’t ache
and I believe my love loves me
especially if it’s a day I feel good about people
              I’m touched by falling leaves
especially those falling on boulevards
especially chestnut leaves.

6th September, 1961, Leipzig

Nazim Hikmet from Poems of Nazim Hikmet, trans. Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, Persea Books, 2002

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963)

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963)

This poem by the great Turkish poet and exile Nazim Hikmet seemed just right for this sun-heavy Thanksgiving Saturday on Vancouver Island. Here, on a day when Autumn, in its riot of colours, is still a consolation and not the desolation it can be when the rain and gray skies move in. And it seemed just right for a day when all the stock Autumn images seem to trap me in one wonderful cliché after another. What a challenge for a writer to come at this season in an unexpected way!

That’s why I so appreciate how Hikmet tackles the cliché of falling leaves head on; and how he, wonderfully, gives us this fifty one thousand and first poem on falling leaves. And gets away with it. Such a lovely reversal he pulls on the reader. Once he deals again and again with his list of fifty thousand instances of reading about, watching and stepping through falling leaves his line: but I’m still touched by falling leaves seems such a welcome surprise.

For me, that surprise earns Hikmet the right to be writing yet another “falling leaves” poem and I am pulled in and then drawn in even further by his conditional phrases that start with especially. These phrases add such resonance and poignancy. And his repetition of especially creates the momentum that drives the poem forward so successfully.

And something else. What becomes clear towards the poem’s end is that his being touched by falling leaves is so specific to a time and place. In September in Leipzig. I can imagine him walking down a boulevard, lined with chestnut trees. It is sunny, children are playing and life seems pretty good on a day where he believes his love loves him and he feels good about people! All this is a wonderful opposition to the usual metaphoric sense of sadness or loss evoked by falling leaves.

So, on a day of thanksgiving here in Canada I give thanks for this poem and for Hikmet; and especially for how he reminds me, on this beautiful day, to see falling leaves as a consolation not as a desolation.


  1. Posted October 13, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you Richard . . I’m touched by falling leaves. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.xo

  2. Richard
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Such a weekend as this one fills with thanks of so much sun on every dying and living thing. My Thanksgiving blessings back to you! R

  3. Iain Benson
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    His dates place him as a slightly younger contemporary of the great Turkish Muslim scholar Beduzziamin Said Nursi (obit 1960). Nursi spent 28 years in prison or internal exile. Do you know if he knew of Nursi?

  4. Richard
    Posted October 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Dear Iain: Great to hear from you. I did not of Nursi so no idea if Hikmet would have known him. All best. Are you back in France. Tella is still down in Capetown! Spent time with Hillary’s sister as well. Best,


  5. Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Richard, there will never be too many poems about leaves! Thanks for another. I remember a long time ago reading by George Bowering and I thought he spoke this line: “leaves are heartache gathering at doors.” Even if he didn’t say it quite the same, I still love it.

  6. Richard
    Posted November 21, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Love your website. Tried to reply on it but not sure it was sent. Thanks again for being such a loyal blog reader! Prep fopr two retreats has (is) keeping away from it! I lead a retreat for 16 of us at Honeymoon Bay next weekend! All best, R

  7. Heidi Garnett
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you for introducing me to Hikmet. I’ve now ordered his collected poems. What I find so interesting about his work is his narrative style though it doesn’t feel narrative-like at all. He enters the poem in a manner that disarms me, as if we’re walking along a treed boulevard in Leipzig having a conversation.

  8. Richard
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Dear Heidi – I think you are on to something. This poem is a great example of Hikmet disarms us with his “easy” conversational cadence while giving us much more than lineated prose! His use of anaphora and other repetitions chains this poem together and I can swing from it like a kid under the boughs of an over arching tree! Thank you for your love and passion for poetry!

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