Friday, August 19, 2016


  first draft

The sunlight, tinged orange
smoke roiling through the bowl of valley
blue shadows, curl of spine
An engine whines in a pocket canyon
a one-note song for lost kin
Harbinger of the fall with chainsaw choruses
But the trees are dying, they are dying
It's not about the smoke,
or the fires raging to the four directions
Black Death, the trees weeping,
their sap collects in amber lakes
Is this what happened when
Precambrian amber was new?
Did the trees die off then too?
Did they weep lachrymosal tears,
where insects clamored
and became stuck in time?
Our tears, the ones unshed, fossilized inside the heart
like occluded smoke, frozen in time
The hum of an air conditioner keeps the smoke at bay
But the trees visit us,
they coat our cars with their secret heartwood
like ladies at their toilette, escaped from the war years,
dusting themselves with lilac-scented talcum
But the powder is gritty, as if from a volcanic eruption
I write my name in the dust on the back window of my car
And taste its acrid ash, the carbon sum of trees
Unshed tears and grief, how do we manifest in in this century,
stuck and frozen in time? The parched earth summons.
At summer's end, naked ladies at the pond
all face east towards the sun. Belladonna,
beauty by any other name Amaryllis,
the scent of funerary offerings.
The sound of a bird singing in the classroom.
Eva cups the phone to the shell of her ear
and talks in low earthtones
only the mountains will understand.

Ellen Bass workshop

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