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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 8, 2018.
About this Poem 
“I wrote ‘Evergreen’ while at Vermont Studio Center a few weeks after the 2016 presidential election. The poem is not ‘about’ that, but it was inescapable context as the river gave itself over to ice a little more every day. I drafted the poem on a brown paper towel with brush and ink after laying on my back on a river rock under flurries, which, by the way, I recommend. At the edges of despair, there are so many signs of life. Bless that magic. May we all really live.”
—Oliver Baez Bendorf

Evergreen

What still grows in winter?
Fingernails of witches and femmes,
green moss on river rocks,
lit with secrets... I let myself
go near the river but not
the railroad: this is my bargain.
Water boils in a kettle in the woods
and I can hear the train grow louder
but I also can’t, you know?
Then I’m shaving in front of an
unbreakable mirror while a nurse
watches over my shoulder. 
Damn. What still grows in winter?
Lynda brought me basil I crushed
with my finger and thumb just to
smell the inside of a thing. So
I go to the river but not the rail-
road, think I’ll live another year.
The river rock dig into my shoulders
like a lover who knows I don’t want
power. I release every muscle against
the rock and I give it all my warmth.
                              Snow shakes
onto my chest quick as table salt.
Branches above me full of pine needle
whips: when the river rock is done
with me, I could belong to the evergreen.
Safety is a rock I throw into the river.
My body, ready. Don’t even think
a train run through this town anymore.

Copyright © 2018 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Oliver Baez Bendorf

Oliver Baez Bendorf

Oliver Baez Bendorf is the author of The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State University Press, 2015).