She’s 80 now, a lifetime of writing, layers of leaves lying thick about her habitation. For years she shuffled pages into neat piles and moved them from one shelf to the next, one wall of her study to the other, there under the desk, a little space.

In the last decades she has wheeled her hoard up the hall in an old baby carriage and piled it into the closets in her bedroom and then her in guest room and then on the beds. Last month she paid a boy to cart 37 cardboard boxes to the shed at the back of her lot, but still there was more—as if each sheet had been copulating. When had she stuffed those cantos into the pressure cooker? The sestinas under the settee? Discovering she had used a villanelle as filter paper, she gave up Mr. Coffee.

But now it is December, and there seems nothing she can do but layer the lawn, the leaves of her life, yellowing, fading into sepia and rust, had she really written all this blighted stuff? She knows to keep the piles small, to let air circulate and heat dissipate, but how can she? Mounds and mounds, and with her arthritis, so hard to rake around, rake through. And now snow. Who is there to help? The younger writers are all busy accumulating their own decay.

She contemplates cremation, but it seems burning leaves is no longer legal in the little town where she has lived so many seasons, and she has just learned that even a train ticket takes two weeks to decompose.