Away Game

Leaves drift through the air wherever I go these days, in autumn’s near-constant breeze, whooshing out of sight.

At a high school soccer game beneath lights, bundled in boots and hats, we watch the boys cheer for the girls. In the second half, the boys brush off an impending fight with a rival team. For just a moment, we wonder, Which way will this go? Overhead, Vs of geese call loudly, heading out of here, south. The scent of frying hamburgers tantalizes.

The high school’s the most run-down I’ve seen in Vermont, the field patchy, dwarfed by an enormous research facility for adult work, gleaming in the setting sun. Somehow, we have the sense the adults’ cafeteria serves up finer fare than subsidized school lunch. My daughter’s high school is one of the state’s scrappier — no secret there — but much more moves beneath the sailing soccer balls.

All the long drive home, the river swallowed up in the dark, we talk and talk and talk, passing the time and the miles, our two headlights illuminating the first traces of snow.

Home through the woods,
through the chill rain.

The last leaves down
and sodden on the ground.

The end of autumn...

—David Budbill


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