Stories — Sandra Kohler

…what really happened only becomes truly real once we have imagined it, that is, once
we have told it to ourselves as if it were a story.
” Javier Marais

Scant slant light, gray overhead, impenetrable lowering dome.
The trees are raining leaves, they fall like fat gold snowflakes;
the street is paved with gold. I could sit here, chronicle each

leaf as it lands. The day seems to be getting darker, not lighter.
I wonder if I’m hearing rain – a cold trickle. What I miss
is conscious happiness, that unlikely possession mine for

a few years. In my memory this morning it glows the way
autumn’s colors do in the filtering light: small maples
on Upland Street with pure scarlet leaves, green and gold

and maroon stains and veins on the fatter maple leaves on
Waldeck. Amber tones. Late afternoon skies’ boulders
of cloudbank, the watery shift and shimmer of light, blue

distance’s ambiguities. Nothing is still. Our neighbor
tells us the trees producing more acorns than usual means
a hard winter. If true, a beautiful economy, providential

provision. It’s a consoling myth, a story. Beneath it, as
in the old joke about turtles, another: it’s stories all the
way down. Last year I felt hungry, a forager, in woods

where provender was too scarce to last through winter.
The consoling myths I held to were my inventions, frail
lies and frailer truths, stories that formed small kernels

of sustenance. This morning, a rising wind in the yard
is music, agitato, that lifts fallen leaves, swells, crescendos.
I tell myself I’ll be changing to my final day, last moment;
I’ll ask nothing but to be what I am, alive, transient.


Sandra Kohler is a poet and teacher. Her third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 40 years.