Blue Leaves

by Karen Benke

On the walk home my son and I gather leaves.
At the kitchen table he colors them blue.
One by one, we tape them to the window
next to the pink snowflakes he and his babysitter make.
It’s date night, so his father and I wave goodbye.
On the drive to therapy we talk about the state
of our marriage and how I don’t like the woman
he hired to decorate his office. I don’t care for her
choice in wallpaper or drapes, I explain—
the colors are drab, the pleats too complicated.
But my husband disagrees with my feelings,
something the therapist will say isn’t helping.
He shrugs and tells me that he likes her opinions,
that’s all. Besides, he only sees her now and again.
Only then, days later, I find myself in the position
of listening as he explains how she has a fever,
groceries are needed, her husband’s away.
He waves to me across the cracked driveway—
Later in bed, I ask why he went, why he’s doing this
to us, hoping for a different answer, a reason to believe
we might still have a chance. Only then, he mentions
something about fabric swatches and the pain in
my chest folds and re-folds into these complicated pleats.
That’s when I make the decision to remove
every drape from every window, to better see
the view of the blue leaves and pink snowflakes
made by those small hands, freckled with paint.


Karen Benke is the author of a chapbook, Sister (Conflux Press) and four books about creative writing (Roost Books/Shambhala Publications). Rip the Page!, the first in the series, is translated into Chinese, Korean, and Russian. The director of Creative Writing Adventures, a nonprofit program of CalPoets, she divides her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Italy. Visit her at

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