Poem of the Week

On The Thinking Of Trees
*this is a favourite poem from my book "Indiana The Island". i wrote it in
late 1999. i revised it a bit to my more contemporary writing style. (sorry if you already have the book and were expecting something new...)*

What I once believed was thwarted.
From the thundercloud plum
in the backyard to the
puckered peaches across the lazy creek
I had wishes.
Each tree a thought,
a life,
a wisdom.
And my father chopped them down
with a hungry axe
when their bark
split and drooled angry poison
down the side.

I remember the smell of their disease.
It went up my nose like roasting peppers
and rotting cabbage.

My father taught me about each tree-
The shady linden, silver maple,
towering sycamore, exploding cottonwood,
pink crabapple, blooming sumac,
smart birch, and on and on.

When my mother became sick
I could smell her fear.
You could ride it down the hallway like a sled
or floating wagon.
Her breath was as slow as a dying tree.
The poison in her stunk.
I never chopped her down or gave up hope.

When my lover disappeared
like winter leaves
I wished he were a smart birch.
Through the sleet and snow
and teeth-filled wind
he keeps his leaves.
"A winter coat" my father would say.
They'd fall when the sun came back.
You never came back.
When my lover died
they put his body in wood,
maybe a northern oak or blue pine.
They buried it like a seed
until a month later it sprouted granite.
There were words carved on one side
like lovers' initials on a towering sycamore.
It too was dated.
There were two deaths that day.

Few trees decide to live
once they're sliced to ground level.
A pink crabapple will
surprise you with
new growth all around the edges
of a once proud trunk.

My father taught me too much.
Trees have fear.
Trees give up hope.
Trees die.
Yet, like many humans,
there are exceptions.

I will have new growth.
I will keep my leaves in wintertime.
I will take care of the sick
and comfort the dying
until my sap is drained.

- Monday, May 24, 2004

Paper Thin
You have asked me to dinner
but I am stapled to the wall.
I am kindergarten art,
a cut-and-paste construction paper boy
who has not unflattened himself.

I can't sit with you
in public
because I ignore everything
like a war
in a small country
or an unwashed towel
on the washing machine.

But your face has turned to vodka-
Your arms as fat as grapefruits
ready for peeling
and torso a dinner table,
a party of crows
thirsty for cool water,
dreaming of thick branches.

In any invitation
there is a necromancer-
Somehow he makes me see lights
in the shapes of arrows-
A golden bed damp with saltwater,
a dip in the mattress
warm enough for surrendered feet.

There is never dinner.
It is always too much drink
and an equilibrium turned jellyfish
with you giving up before I do-

I am as flat as paper.
- Friday, May 14, 2004

Watching The Stars Without You
I am still
humbled and feel small
when I see the stars-
Those tiny lights that are
so big
like bumbling elephants
and cresting whales.

I know them all by now,
I know their husbands and wives,
their homes, their demeanor.
I know their numbers
like a great computer would.

I watch them alone, you see,
and I am so small! I am
a dot.
They can see me too:
A multitude of teeth
and arms and hair,
a red, pumping pulsar
signaling, wishing we
were picnicking together in
a star nursury.

I remember lying on my back
in deep fields in Indiana
(where there were no lights)
and counting smooth satellites
as they scraped by stars,
pushed through the Milky Way and
rarely, piercing a lumbering green comet.

I want to put those stars
between my fingers and
gently squeeze the warmth from them,
let them move through my arms
and into my heart,
my own little star.

You should have called me.
I can count the stars.
- Friday, May 14, 2004

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