A Christmas Circular Letter The city had withdrawn into itself And left at last the country to the country; When between whirls of snow not come to lie And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, Yet did in country fashion in that there He sat and waited till he drew us out A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was. He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas. He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; My woods—the young fir balsams like a place Where houses all are churches and have spires. I hadn't thought of them as Christmas Trees. I doubt if I was tempted for a moment To sell them off their feet to go in cars And leave the slope behind the house all bare, Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. I'd hate to have them know it if I was. Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees except As others hold theirs or refuse for them, Beyond the time of profitable growth, The trial by market everything must come to. I dallied so much with the thought of selling. Then whether from mistaken courtesy And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while." "I could soon tell how many they would cut, You let me look them over." "You could look. But don't expect I'm going to let you have them." Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close That lop each other of boughs, but not a few Quite solitary and having equal boughs All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to, Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, With a buyer's moderation, "That would do." I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so. We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, And came down on the north. He said, "A thousand." "A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?" He felt some need of softening that to me: "A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars." Then I was certain I had never meant To let him have them. Never show surprise! But thirty dollars seemed so small beside The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents (For that was all they figured out apiece), Three cents so small beside the dollar friends I should be writing to within the hour Would pay in cities for good trees like those, Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools Could hang enough on to pick off enough. A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had! Worth three cents more to give away than sell, As may be shown by a simple calculation. Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter. I can't help wishing I could send you one, In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
Life of a Tree 223
I wonder about the trees. Why do we wish to bear Forever the noise of these More than another noise So close to our dwelling place? We suffer them by the day Till we lose all measure of pace, And fixity in our joys, And acquire a listening air. They are that that talks of going But never gets away; And that talks no less for knowing, As it grows wiser and older, That now it means to stay. My feet tug at the floor And my head sways to my shoulder Sometimes when I watch trees sway, From the window or the door. I shall set forth for somewhere, I shall make the reckless choice Some day when they are in voice And tossing so as to scare The white clouds over them on. I shall have less to say, But I shall be gone.
Red cloth I lie on the ground otherwise nothing could hold I put my hand on the ground the membrane is gone and nothing does hold your place in the ground is all of it and it is breathing
The branches looked first like tepees, but there was no emptiness. Like piles of leaves waiting for fire: at the foot of the wisewoman trees, at the foot of the broken General, next to the tree of the veteran girl who died this summer slow red cloth
"Your gang's done gone away." —The 119th Calypso, Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Something seems to have gnawed that walnut leaf. You face your wrinkles, daily, in the mirror. But the wrinkles are so slimming, they rather flatter. Revel in the squat luck of that unhappy tree, who can't take a mate from among the oaks or gums. Ah, but if I could I would, the mirror version says, because he speaks to you. He is your truer self all dopey in the glass. He wouldn't stand alone for hours, without at least a feel for the gall of oaks, the gum tree bud caps, the sweet gum's prickly balls. Oh, he's a caution, that reflection man. He's made himself a study in the trees. You is a strewn shattered leaf I'd step on, he says. Do whatever it is you'd like to do. Be quick.
That pip in the pear is a blackbird. Tussle on the grass a grackle. It is officially spring. Watch:
Some kids pulling up BURIED WATER PIPE flags. And next to them the little violets. Rain violets. The flags are blue.
The sycamores are just greening. "The world in fact is just," Chaos said. And we believed him, who called himself
the most difficult thing he could think of. He wanted to get into the club. The club he was clubbed outside of.
Later, it'll matter that there's no marker. Before he was Chaos, Robin he was, because he stole. Was blank before.
A bronze angel thoughtfully placed for all who grieve a child. Of course a child. What else might you have lost.
You should lie down now and remember the forest, for it is disappearing-- no, the truth is it is gone now and so what details you can bring back might have a kind of life. Not the one you had hoped for, but a life --you should lie down now and remember the forest-- nonetheless, you might call it "in the forest," no the truth is, it is gone now, starting somewhere near the beginning, that edge, Or instead the first layer, the place you remember (not the one you had hoped for, but a life) as if it were firm, underfoot, for that place is a sea, nonetheless, you might call it "in the forest," which we can never drift above, we were there or we were not, No surface, skimming. And blank in life, too, or instead the first layer, the place you remember, as layers fold in time, black humus there, as if it were firm, underfoot, for that place is a sea, like a light left hand descending, always on the same keys. The flecked birds of the forest sing behind and before no surface, skimming. And blank in life, too, sing without a music where there cannot be an order, as layers fold in time, black humus there, where wide swatches of light slice between gray trunks, Where the air has a texture of drying moss, the flecked birds of the forest sing behind and before: a musk from the mushrooms and scalloped molds. They sing without a music where there cannot be an order, though high in the dry leaves something does fall, Nothing comes down to us here. Where the air has a texture of drying moss, (in that place where I was raised) the forest was tangled, a musk from the mushrooms and scalloped molds, tangled with brambles, soft-starred and moving, ferns And the marred twines of cinquefoil, false strawberry, sumac-- nothing comes down to us here, stained. A low branch swinging above a brook in that place where I was raised, the forest was tangled, and a cave just the width of shoulder blades. You can understand what I am doing when I think of the entry-- and the marred twines of cinquefoil, false strawberry, sumac-- as a kind of limit. Sometimes I imagine us walking there (. . .pokeberry, stained. A low branch swinging above a brook) in a place that is something like a forest. But perhaps the other kind, where the ground is covered (you can understand what I am doing when I think of the entry) by pliant green needles, there below the piney fronds, a kind of limit. Sometimes I imagine us walking there. And quickening below lie the sharp brown blades, The disfiguring blackness, then the bulbed phosphorescence of the roots. But perhaps the other kind, where the ground is covered, so strangely alike and yet singular, too, below the pliant green needles, the piney fronds. Once we were lost in the forest, so strangely alike and yet singular, too, but the truth is, it is, lost to us now.
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I never claimed night fathered me. that was my dead brother talking in his sleep. I keep him under my pillow, a dear wish that colors my laughing and crying. I never said the wind, remembering nothing, leaves so many rooms unaccounted for, continual farewell must ransom the unmistakable fragrance our human days afford. It was my brother, little candle in the pulpit, reading out loud to all of earth from the book of night. He died too young to learn his name. Now he answers to Vacant Boat, Burning Wing, My Black Petal. Ask him who his mother is. He'll declare the birds have eaten the path home, but each of us joins night's ongoing story wherever night overtakes him, the heart astonished to find belonging and thanks answering thanks. Ask if he's hungry or thirsty, he'll say he's the bread come to pass and draw you a map to the twelve secret hips of honey. Does someone want to know the way to spring? He'll remind you the flower was never meant to survive the fruit's triumph. He says an apple's most secret cargo is the enduring odor of a human childhood, our mother's linen pressed and stored, our father's voice walking through the rooms. He says he's forgiven our sister for playing dead and making him cry those afternoons we were left alone in the house. And when clocks frighten me with their long hair, and when I spy the wind's numerous hands in the orchard unfastening first the petals from the buds, then the perfume from the flesh, my dead brother ministers to me. His voice weighs nothing but the far years between stars in their massive dying, and I grow quiet hearing how many of both of our tomorrows lie waiting inside it to be born.
I draw a window and a man sitting inside it. I draw a bird in flight above the lintel. That's my picture of thinking. If I put a woman there instead of the man, it's a picture of speaking. If I draw a second bird in the woman's lap, it’s ministering. A third flying below her feet. Now it's singing. Or erase the birds make ivy branching around the woman's ankles, clinging to her knees, and it becomes remembering. You'll have to find your own pictures, whoever you are, whatever your need. As for me, many small hands issuing from a waterfall means silence mothered me. The hours hung like fruit in night's tree means when I close my eyes and look inside me, a thousand open eyes span the moment of my waking. Meanwhile, the clock adding a grain to a grain and not getting bigger, subtracting a day from a day and never having less, means the honey lies awake all night inside the honeycomb wondering who its parents are. And even my death isn't my death unless it's the unfathomed brow of a nameless face. Even my name isn't my name except the bees assemble a table to grant a stranger light and moment in a wilderness of Who? Where?