“Fall came late this year, in December”

I’ve been trying to pick my life back up
after it dropped suddenly
three months ago in September

I remember where I was
half asleep in a motel room in Phoenix
the room stale from smoke
the first light of the sun peeking through
a crack in the curtain
dry desert heat lingering outside

I woke up that morning to the news
and watched the North and South fall,
the city drowning in smoke and ash
while I lay there in bed
thinking, “Is this real? Is this make-believe?”

The night before we planned to head home
just one day early, exhausted
we’d leave after breakfast
I only ate half then threw it out

An hour later we hit the road
I snapped a blurred photograph
at the city limits
and the desert swallowed us up

The car silent
except for the radio news
which we turned on with nothing to say,
watching the tire tracks disappear off the road
we stopped for gas at the border
and ate greasy fries in the Arizona heat
fearing war, death, and the price of gas

It’s been three months and nineteen days
and today I sat out on the front porch
sheltered from the cool rain
as cars passed by
and I noticed the leaves from the tree
had fallen wet and yellow
clinging to the pavement
Fall came late this year, in December