How deliciously iridescent was the budding leaf
when it burst into bloom on an extruding limb of the tree –
another leaf sprouting forth from those that preceded it;
another leaf to burden the boughs of that time-worn tree;
an added weight until it no longer could bear life’s fruit.

But what a tiny leaf — no danger to fell the tree, no danger
to bend the bough to the bone-filled earth. I shimmered
and glowed from the dew that caressed me at sunrise,
bouncing and dancing from the touch of the morning breeze,
singing as the surging sap filled my tiny veins;

I expanded and thrived in the sun’s dappling shadows,
growing rich and lustrous with the cleansing of the rain,
expanding into an age-ripened leaf able to comprehend
my identity among the fledgling leaves, able to sense
my uniqueness among the flowering branches.

Then one day, bursting with the strength of my youth,
I tore away from my roots, snapped the stem that held me
and leaped onto the winds of flight that bore me upwards
and onwards into the swirling currents of life.
Freed from my umbilical cord, I soared into the future.

Aspiring heaven and seeking to reach unimagined heights,
I strained to devour all the delights presented by the wind.
I soared into maturity with each season stealing a piece
of my life-giving fluids until, as a waning leaf,
I began to shrivel and wilt from my pleasure-seeking years.

When the buoyant winds no longer could lift my dying cells,
I began to swirl and twirl downward into the twilight
of brittle decay, falling to the ground beneath
the time-worn tree where once I budded and bloomed
with life. Curling into myself I became one with the earth.

(First Hon. Mention, Category 20, NFSPS 2018 Poetry Contest)