I am raking my leaves at six in the morning. An hour even the puffed-up pigeons won't acknowledge. At any hour, raking leaves is futile. But this morning my neighbors actually phoned to inform me the leaf-eating truck is on its way down our street.

Everyday this week, everytime I've gone in or out of the house, some neighbor insists the leaf-eating truck is due any moment, and if I move quickly I may pile my leaves on parkway in time for them to be sucked up through that elephantine nozzle.

"Better than bagging," they argue, as they sweep their own leaves over the curbs of their lives. They've been raking every day for the truck which has yet to arrive.

This morning the truck is indeed on its way. Up the street it's blocking traffic and stirring the air as it grinds down in my direction. The honking of strung-out cars would have wakened me if the neighbors hadn't.

I don't believe in raking leaves. They keep the stones in my garden warm. They cover the sidewalk's blotched concrete, hide cicatrices in cement, mask the fact that grass hasn't grown here under the big magnolias for years.

And leaves disintegrate to nourish the pebbles and clay of the ancient stream bed into which my house is gradually sagging, in classic textbook horst-and-graben fashion pushing up the surrounding geolic strate. Maybe some year the mulched soil will be fertile enough for vineyards to grow over the archaeological ruins of my house.

Besides, branchfuls of leaves up there are poised to fall only tomorrow.

So, while my neighbors have been raking their daily leaves, I've been off roaming the Balkans with gypsy fiddlers, reading my verses to monolingual Albanian shepherds, swimming the Hellespont, sketching frescoes on wet walls of fallen fishermen's huts just before the bulldozer scrapes the site, and generally scaling flat-topped volcanos in hopes my stones won't roll off their summits,

I haven't been raking leaves.

But this morning here I am with my bucktoothed rake, frantically scraping the gray clay of its protective coloration, creating moraines of multi-colored leaves in the gutter, playing the game for the neighbors' sake.

They come out their front door to pick up their papers, scatter the pifeons, and gratefully wave to the slowly approaching leaf-eating truck. They see me and wave with smiles on their faces.

I wave back and grin.

For the rest of this fall I shall be off in the Bosporus, Katmandu or the Fiji Islands, leaving the safety of my study only after midnight when all good neighbors are sleeping, while the rest of this season's leaves are whispering down to cover my denuded yard. Maybe the snows will quickly conceal them.

I prefer not to disturb the snow, either.