From The Brain And The Leaf

By Dinah Hawken

The human brain, so frail, so perishable, so full of inexhaustible dreams and hungers, burns by power of the leaf.
Loren Eisley

First I see a single leaf.
Light, veined, shapely, green.

Then I see a single brain.
Convoluted. Soft. White and black.

I see both, one after the other.
Imaginatively. In the internal air.

I imagine them with my own brain,
the one I will never actually see

because it is housed
as if in a bank vault

for the time of my life.
But it must be inseparable

– somehow – from the imagined brain
and the imagined leaf.


I realise I have fallen in love
with the imagined leaf.

I simply love that leaf.
Instinctively. But still

I will force myself to include it
In the same image, at the same time

as the imagined brain
even though I am afraid

that the mass, fleshiness and colour
of the imagined brain will detract

from the definition
and life of the leaf.


It does. And I discover
that it is harder for my brain

to see two things at once
than it is to see them singly

and that, as a consequence, the effort
to see also detracts from the clarity

of seeing and therefore
from the imagined leaf.

Though not from the love
of the leaf which seems to be

in a place – a hidden compartment
of the vault, a lower region of my body? –

from which neither my mind,
or time, can displace it. I cannot

imagine not loving the imagined leaf.
(Well, I can imagine it, since you

can imagine almost anything,
but it wouldn’t be true.)

The leaf has taken a life
in my mind defying gravity:

being at the same time
the small, ordinary leaf that it is,

every other individual leaf
and all leaves on all trees.

Try for a moment to imagine
the number of leaves on all trees

or even a few trees. Unimaginable!
The small heart-shaped leaf

(upside down) in my mind
even represents the long waving leaves
of the three cabbage-tree heads
I can see from this window.

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