Autumn, Philadelphia

A living fossil, the delicate
ginkgo is all that remains
of an order died off. Revered
as sacred, temple tree of China,

its ornamental transplants wave
their fan-like leaves above
the avenues they stain ochre
in October, dropping fruit.

Puke fruit, the children call it.
Even nursery-schoolers, wrist-
noosed to a safety rope
their caregivers hold, know

not to crush the pulp,
know how to skirt
what dogs and drunkards squat
to drop by heaps of trash

street people pick for food
and shoes. Is it only hopscotch
when a chain of kids leaps
a chapstick or snapshot—

whatever muggers toss
aside or the careless
strew—muddied scarves,
gum silvers, glittery

needles and vials.
Skipping by the shadow-
men asleep
on manhole covers,

how lightly the children
sidestep the fallen,
not touching,
not untouched.

J. C. Todd’s poems and translations have appeared on Verse Daily, the anthology Shade 2004, and in American Poetry Review, The Paris Review and other journals. Pine Press published two chapbooks: Nightshade (1995) and Entering Pisces (1985). An associate editor for the poetry web-magazine, The Drunken Boat, she has edited a feature on contemporary poetry from Latvia on-line now at She also was guest poetry editor for the Summer, 2005 issue of The Bucks County Review. JC’s awards include a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, two Leeway Awards, a scholarship to the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Sweden, and a grant from the Latvian Cultural Capital Fund. A lecturer in Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College, she has an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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