Three Letters to the Prince of Falling Leaves

Was it you I met in India, when I was just a little girl? The leaves didn't fall yellow or red in my water-poor town unless they caught a sticky spray of Holi dye. They spun in devils, the color of dust, over earth as cracked and powdery as a potter's discards.

Was it you who gave me one crisp skeleton, veins bled dry of chlorophyll, intricate as spiderweb? I didn't know your language, but I understood your message: Look!

Were you there in the crowd at Kiyomizu Temple? All those rapt faces, all those upheld cameras, all those exclamations repeated until I learned Japanese in a day: "How pretty! What a beautiful fall! The maples, the ginkgoes, so yellow, so red. Oh, look!"

Were you there when it rained, and the crowds stayed home? I walked alone without camera or notebook in the gardens of another temple. Matsu, pine, is a pun in two languages: a tree, and to wait with longing.

Wait long enough and even those sharp-tipped leaves will fall.

Where are you now, in the Arizona desert? I would show you plump leaves stretched tight with precious water. I would show you the books I can no longer read without their pages fluttering down.

Where are you now, after so many falls? I would strip away my clothes of yellow and red, and show you the veins beneath my papery skin.

Cup your hands, and catch me.

—Rachel Manija Brown

Rachel Manija Brown's memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: an American Misfit in India, was published by Rodale, and her manga-style graphic novels Spy Goddess and The 9-Lives were published by Tokyopop. She also writes for television and recently sold an animated series, Game World (with Sherwood Smith), to the Jim Henson Company. Visit her website at