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Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum

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

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2000
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Published in Michael Waters Poems

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