How often the names of trees consoled me,
how I would repeat to myself green ash
while the marriage smoldered in the not-talking,
red maple when the less-than-tenderness flashed,
then black gum, black gum as I lay next to you
in the not-sleeping, in the not-lovemaking.
Those days I tramped the morass of the preserve,
ancient ash smudging shadows on stagnant pools,
the few wintry souls skulking abandoned wharves.
In my notebook I copied plaques
screwed to bark, sketching the trunks’ scission,
a minor Audubon bearing loneliness like a rucksack.
And did the trees assume a deeper silence?
Did their gravity and burl and centuries-old patience
dignify this country, our sorrow?
So as I lay there, the roof bursting with invisible
branches, the darkness doubling in their shade,
the accusations turning truths in the not-loving,
green ash, red maple, black gum, I prayed,
in the never-been-faithful, in the don’t-touch-me,
in the can’t-bear-it-any-longer,
black gum, black gum, black gum.
from Parthenopi: New and Selected PoemsFind it in the library
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