Autumn is a time of change. The skies are changeable, the days get shorter still, The foliage takes on the brilliant hues of a broad palette. The air takes on a chill. There are many inspired thoughts connected to Autumn. Here’s the twist.

Write down the following:

Something you buy in a bakery.
A smell in a diner.
A make of automobile.
Something people do to relieve stress.
An unusual musical instrument.
A child’s game.

Use all six in your poem. Start the poem with:

The smell of burning leaves…



The smell of burning leaves filled him,
like aromatic coffee on a brisk morning;
like the dawning of another new day
which comes on the flare of a flugle horn trill.
The exhilarating breath of Autumn
filters through the screen door
playing tag with his senses. No dodge
could free him from its touch..
Choosing to recline in his armchair,
he drifted back to sleep in peace.

(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2014

173 thoughts on “PROMPT #168 – MIX-AND-MATCH MUSE


    I’d ford
    a croissant stream
    on a greasy spinet
    just to laugh and cry and play jacks
    with you.

    copyright 2014, William Preston

  2. Morning Tea

    The smell of burning leaves
    Jarred me from my reverie
    I took a bite of my muffin
    And sipped my hot spiced tea

    It was smooth as a jaguar
    Strong as a slab of beef
    I won’t harp on it anymore
    But I tag this tea as chief

  3. Within Seconds

    The smell of burning leaves blew in
    through the screen door
    creaking as you enter
    and snatch a cranberry scone
    from the baking sheet
    with one sweep of your free arm,
    your father’s Chevy truck
    crunching loose gravel
    as it turns around.

    I ask you how
    your fife lesson went,
    my hands on shoulders
    spent from standing too long
    snapping green beans
    and frying pork chops

    but you just play the quiet game
    as usual.


    The smell of burning leaves took him back
    to Richmond Hill when raking was a chore
    and only Dad could light the brittle mounds
    that would spark and crackle in the yard.
    Johnny said it sounded like music,
    wisps of something like notes to play
    on a magical autumn vine-a-lin.
    Meanwhile Wanda and I played Hide and Seek;
    Mom screamed, “Stay away from the fire!”
    while Dad added to the flames,
    directing Johnny to brush off the leaves
    from the white roof of his ‘53 Chevy Bellaire. .
    “Honey,” he called to Mom, “any buttered rolls?
    No coffee. Just a couple of buttered rolls.”
    She shrugged he shoulders, squeezed her brown eyes shut,
    the way she did when demanding Dad
    wanted something to eat hours before
    or after meals like she was a waitress
    serving burgers at Greek’s Diner
    on Lefferts Boulevard. “Coming right up,” she said.



    The smell of burning leaves,
    when admixed with greasy spoons,
    affords me bouts of dry heaves
    and groans that sound just like bassoons.

    Fall colors all laugh when I
    choke as the smoke rises high;
    can’t even stand apple pie
    when autumn plays tag with the sky.

    copyright 2014, William Preston


    The smell of burning leaves
    reminds me there is no more
    hide and seek with summer.
    Born to be a beach bum, for me
    it’s more like a whiff of stale coffee
    than the aroma of freshly baked bread.
    Let autumn strum its balalaika
    as reds and golds dance past the greens.
    I’d rather fall in Malibu.

    © Susan Schoeffield

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  8. Homecoming Game

    Lost in thought,
    I stare out the kitchen window,
    watching nothing except a memory
    flit away in the breeze.
    My coffee grows cold
    and my small slice of babka
    (all almond paste and brown sugar crumbs)
    remains uneaten.
    I’m thinking about a walk
    I took yesterday.
    A Dodge minivan
    full of college students
    drove past me.
    They were yelling
    about how their team was number one.
    Someone played a one-note song
    on a vuvuzela,
    which I thought was outlawed now,
    but I am probably wrong about that.
    I looked away
    and then looked back at them
    several times
    as if we were playing
    some weird game
    of peek-a-boo,
    until all I saw was the back of the van
    disappearing around a bend
    in the road.
    A long time ago,
    that vuvuzela player
    might have been me.
    Lost in thought,
    I stare out the kitchen window,
    watching nothing except a memory
    flit away in the breeze.


    • Ooops – sorry. I missed the opening line, so here’s my redo:

      Homecoming Game

      The smell of burning leaves…je reviens en un même lieu:

      Lost in thought,
      I stare out the kitchen window,
      watching nothing except a memory
      flit away in the breeze.
      My coffee grows cold
      and my small slice of babka
      (all almond paste and brown sugar crumbs)
      remains uneaten.
      I’m thinking about a walk
      I took yesterday.
      A Dodge minivan
      full of college students
      drove past me.
      They were yelling
      about how their team was number one.
      Someone played a one-note song
      on a vuvuzela,
      which I thought was outlawed now,
      but I am probably wrong about that.
      I looked away
      and then looked back at them
      several times
      as if we were playing
      some weird game
      of peek-a-boo,
      until all I saw was the back of the van
      disappearing around a bend
      in the road.
      A long time ago,
      that vuvuzela player
      might have been me.
      Lost in thought,
      I stare out the kitchen window,
      watching nothing except a memory
      flit away in the breeze.


  9. This assignment provided me with two very different ideas. . .here they are!

    The smell of burning leaves don’t reach the penthouse
    One season blends into the next
    Marked by a gala ball
    Only the regal elite may attend
    Drink coffee and champagne, munch on petit fours and tartlets
    For entertainment, a sonata played on a harpsichord

    The smell of burning leaves mixes with cigarette smoke
    A new aroma teases the nostrils if anyone cares
    Demon or cougar, saint or sinner
    Drink cayenne cowboy coffee and grab an empanada
    Accept the challenge
    Play steel drums or make cups ring
    There’s no running away when you’re over the hill
    Tomorrow I’ll lie down and cry

  10. October Run

    His spine stretches, pops
    like the red stems
    of Chinese dogwood
    veins pulsing.

    An old Saab’s zithering
    splinters sound,
    marbling dawn’s
    warm cranberry scones
    and hazelnut coffee,
    a light jacket for the nip.

    Ah, smell the Fall routine.

  11. “Smoking Autumn in the city”

    “Because of the smell of burning leaves,” he tells me
    when I ask why he left the farm for a two-flat in the city.
    “Smells like tar.”

    We lean against his pomegranate red hot-rod Lincoln,
    he slides a harmonica from his pocket and begins playing
    “The Hokey Pokey.”

    I put my right hand in. I am shaking it all about when a
    tangerine mustang pulls aside. “Play some jazz, cowboy,”
    the driver says spitting his chew into the sewer grate.

    I take my right hand out. The three of us stare at each
    other. My buddy starts playing, “Who’ll Chop Your Suey
    When I’m Gone.”

    There’s a moment of panic, one scrawny yellow elm leaf
    dangles from his antennae, then falls. He shows us his
    toothless smile, then speeds away, cutting donuts in the
    intersection, leaving us in a cloud of blue/black exhaust.

  12. Pretending she is with us

    As the mountains rise over Danish meadows,
    as a cool dusk cascades over smoking streams,
    as the raping wind bores the smells of the sea
    across the lemon grass and Fleetwood spruce,
    she tantalizes us, her voice earthy and dulcimer mellow.

    From the cavern, we skip stones across the flaccid lake,
    the echo of her fading song sinks to the center
    of the earth.

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  14. The smell of burning leaves is your favorite, (I remember), and today I ate a bagel – thick with cream cheese, (the way you like it), in your honor. Thinking on the old days when we’d stop at the Bakery, the one that was always overcome with the smell of fresh marinara from the Italian Diner next door. Anyway, those trips in my parent’s little red Toyota were something of a mantra for me…an escape. It makes me laugh to recall when we’d crank my ukulele CD and open all the windows…the children playing hopscotch would stare and chuckle.

    Such fun. Thinking of and missing you.

    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2014

  15. Scorched

    The smell of burning leaves,
    Reminiscent of scorched coffee that her dad always drinks
    And thick, dark bread straight from the oven that her mom used to make.
    The windows of her little volkswagen rolled up,
    Burning leaves and cigarette smoke.
    Fall descends quickly in crimson and brown
    And the smell of burning leaves all around
    Reminds her of the days of leapfrog and hide-and-seek,
    Rolling in the leaves, and listening to her uncle’s ukelele.
    Bleary eyes and the cold creeping up fast,
    Thick sweaters and ripped jeans with boots
    As she remembers all the memories, huddled close in the backseat,
    Next to the heater with chattering teeth
    And cigarette smoke and burning leaves.

  16. I just couldn’t figure how to smoothly add Grandpa’s old Chrysler, sorry.

    A Whiff of Yesterday

    The smell of burning leaves linger all these years
    sashaying through the open kitchen windows
    competing with coffee so strong
    you could stand a spoon up in it,
    just the way grandpa liked it
    from his Navy days, he said.
    Add to this mingle salt rising bread
    toasted every morning with bacon and eggs…
    Oh, my, if someone could scent a candle
    I’d buy a dozen of those fine memory wicks
    But, they can leave out the cigarette smoke-
    Camels permanently stained your fingers yellow
    you’d squint to see through the dense cloud
    rub the back of your neck to ease the day’s tension.

    Like a melancholy harmonica tune the scents
    tag a sweet sadness in my mind, recollections of
    childhood when I couldn’t conceive he’d
    one day be only a memory.

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  18. Loved this. Thank you!


    The smell of burning leaves
    just won’t go. Listen –
    we need to talk. I burned
    the bacon, and the cake’s
    no longer any kind of
    walk what
    -soever. It’s time you
    parked your stupid Chevy
    on somebody else’s

    I’ve done all my sacred
    yoga poses, all the whatifs
    and supposes. I played eeny
    meeny miney moe, plus also
    roshambo; the con
    -sensus is you

    I’ll be landing
    without you.

    Now, leave me
    to practice
    my kazoo.

  19. Pingback: It’s Time | angieinspired

  20. the smell of burning leaves says it’s time–
    bring me soup spoons!
    feed me a cronut
    and let’s drink to that
    no more hide-and-seek
    [we’ve greased the sun] and it has gone
    to recharge like a Prius plugged in at Pollo Loco

  21. THE FALL

    The smell of burning leaves
    outside couldn’t overpower
    the smell of burning croissants

    wafting from the downstairs kitchen,
    the chaos of
    smoke detectors beeping incessantly loud,

    while Mom, who never cooks,
    grabbed a towel
    from the counter to fan

    the smoke from the charred
    pastries out through
    an open window to intermingle

    with the smoldering pile of
    red and yellow
    leaves in our long driveway

    behind Dad’s old yellow VW
    bug and beside
    the spot my sister and

    I liked to play hopscotch,
    retreating to the
    outdoors while my brother butchered

    Mozart practicing his oboe every
    night, our go-to
    punching bag for sibling barbs

    The beeping stopped but the
    smell of smoke
    lingered and I wondered if

    the rest of dinner was
    lost. If we’d
    still be eating roast beef

    for dinner or if Dad
    would be calling
    Chen’s for wonton soup and

    takeout for five

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  23. Copper Mosquitoes

    The smell of burning leaves was
    the only thing that could mask
    the old grease smell that
    permeated the landscape:

    the men, the women, even the grass smelled like
    road-side hamburgers.

    So every few years he’d order his followers to
    burn it to the ground and Pan looked on,
    his favourite flute, silent.

    The baker, whose house was
    closest to the water and furthest
    from the flames,
    leaned in his doorway
    watching Pan watch
    the greenery

    orange to red to

    then disappear with the finality of
    winter though the seasons
    hadn’t been around for years.

    The black mustangs galloped
    away, their majesty
    obscured by a cloud of dust
    barely distinguishable from
    the smoke.

    When, at last, Pan turned away,
    the baker motioned for him to
    come into the shop and gave him
    a miniature statue: the baker’s
    fingerprints expertly smeared
    in the almond paste to create Pan’s
    soft face; his neat nails leaving the
    impression of cloven feet.

    Pan smiled at the likeness.

    He stuck a toothpick in its
    eyes before biting off its
    head first.

    Delicious, said Pan, looking
    past the baker out the window at
    the flames.

    I warned them, didn’t I? And now
    I close my eyes as they skitter about,
    little mosquitoes buzzing in my ear.

    Why must I still hear them
    with my eyes shut tight?

    Eat, replied the baker.

    So Pan ate another sweet effigy
    and another after that feeling more like
    Cronus than himself.

    Drunk off that feeling of
    responsibility dissipated,
    relief washed over him

    and at last he played his flute,
    breathing through it,
    as the flames consumed the little shop

    ***Thanks for the creative prompt — I’m glad to have found this site!

  24. Autumn Remembrance

    The smell of burning leaves
    in mid-Autumn’s golden glory,
    turns thoughts from summer’s whistling
    through blades of grass, to the scent
    of spicy pumpkin pies cooling
    in the bakery’s window.

    Stopping in for split orders
    of french fries and Cokes
    with friends, perched on
    red vinyl stools at the diner’s
    counter. We would watch the cook
    flipping fragrant burgers, sipping
    as slowly as we dared.

    On a Saturday, our family might go
    for a drive in Dad’s salmon and gray,
    two-tone Chevy Belair, my sister
    and I praying we would not
    throw up from dead cigar butt aroma
    in the ashtray. Dad enjoyed puffing
    on long cigars.

    We did not know then
    how simply we lived
    our lives, in the time
    of burning leaves.

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  26. Rusty Memories

    The smell of burning leaves.
    It’s autumn. It weaves notes
    into dull wind, mutes fife
    notes, and life is wicked away
    on broad stretches. Memories.
    Like an old maid’s bloomers.
    And swept skirts on pavements.

    This season hurts.
    Makes my head pine.

    But the trees are still greased.
    A memory of ants that grew
    wings and flew away in July.
    Memories like those stuck
    fast in the passenger seat
    of Mr Harper’s rusting Fiat.
    Rusty memories. Autumn.

  27. Fire on the Mountain

    The smell of burning leaves us only when we sleep,
    the hills above us aflame for weeks as the wind
    catches the upraised hands of a dozen fires
    and hurries them here and there.

    It is like this every year
    at the end of summer,
    with the dry grass ignited by
    light reflected by a piece of glass
    or careless farmers burning off their fields.

    The lushness of the rainy season
    long since turned to fodder by the sun,
    the fires burn for weeks along the ridges
    and the hollows of the Sierra Madre—
    raising her skirts from where we humans
    puddle at her ankles.

    Imprisoned in their separate worlds,
    the village dogs bark
    as though if freed
    they’d catch the flames
    or give chase at least.

    The distracting smell of roasting meat
    hints at some neighborhood barbecue,
    but only afterwards do we find
    the cow caught by her horns in the fence
    and roasted live.

    Still, that smell of roasting meat
    pushes fingers through the smoke of coyote brush
    and piñon pines and sage,
    driving the dogs to frenzy.

    The new young gardener’s
    ancient heap of rusting Honda
    chugs up the hill like the rhythm section
    of this neighborhood banda group
    with its smoke machine gone crazy
    and its light show far above.

    The eerie woodwinds
    of canine voices far below
    circle like children
    waiting for their birthday cake,
    ringing ‘round the rosy,
    ringing ‘round the rosy
    as ashes, ashes,
    it all falls down.

  28. Pingback: Fire on the Mountain | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  29. A Drop in the Bucket

    The smell of burning leaves
    couldn’t quite mask
    the weary smell of
    stale sweat and coffee.

    They sat in silence,
    exercising their right
    to recoup and regain
    before the next wave assailed them.

    They stood one by one,
    growing taller as they headed out.
    On a roll,
    life returning to their tired eyes in a snap.

    The headed overland,
    the roar of the fire growing louder
    like a tin penny whistle
    in their ears.

    The dry autumn leaves
    were fueling the raging beast
    born from the spark of a storm…
    they fought it, a drop at a time.


    The smell
    of burning leaves
    a shameless
    fruit explosion

    begs a glance
    a measured whiff
    of piquant mastery

    If perhaps
    a pleasured dance
    eager step
    in its direction

    If given
    a rolling chance
    to mesmerize
    with cruel sharp

    the temples
    lobes engaged
    at full throttle
    the senses

    An octobass
    upon the buds
    a symphony
    surfing savory
    its completeness

    Benjamin Thomas


    The smell of burning leaves
    tempers the season
    employs the sheath
    turns the tide
    upends the

    it’s subtle embers rise touching sky
    dissipates to wind
    in silent cries

    the smell of burning leaves
    revs the senses
    tips the scales
    in its favor

    ephemeral burial scents escape
    unto foreign places
    sauntering forth
    offering traces of its former

    the roaring flame offers no forgiveness while it burns
    delivers no mercy
    while it consumes

    but scatters blindly
    to the mind of the wind
    whose every
    thought races
    blends throughout the earth

    Benjamin Thomas

    • Ben these were both lovely! Loved the Scent of Leaves especially. Particularly the wind’s role as it takes the fire’s scattering thoughts. A reversal of the gathering-piling-burning process.

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    The smell of burning leaves
    closes the door on autumn,
    and the sun plays hide and seek
    behind wintry white clouds.

    With bear claw and coffee,
    the only treat I could a-
    ford, I steal a moment alone
    while I massage my temples.

    One last gong of the clock…
    time has run out.

    P. Wanken

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