the trees I know
inspired by McSweeney's recent call for submissions in this form, "pantoum"

 

There’s never snow like flowers on these trees,

the climate here does not produce such fruits.

It’s dry before there’s time for them to freeze.

When there is ice, it doesn’t harm the roots.

 

The climate here does not produce such fruits.

The apples north and peaches south aren’t here.

When there is ice, it doesn’t harm the roots,

or trees that flower early in the year.

 

The apples north and peaches south aren’t here.

Instead take hickory, oak and longleaf pines,

or trees that flower early in the year;

all struggle with a hundred nameless vines.

 

Instead take hickory, oak and longleaf pines,

shade and compost, needles, roots, and moss.

All struggle with a hundred nameless vines,

they win the sun or wither with its loss.

 

Shade and compost, needles, roots, and moss,

draping soil across the dense red clay.

They win the sun or wither with its loss.

They bake in heat, in storms they break or sway.

 

Draping soil across the dense red clay,

the granite tips the trees and tilts them out.

They bake in heat, in storms they break or sway

in summers I knew back before the drought.

 

The granite tips the trees and tilts them out:

the Appalachians point their toes and feet.

In summers I knew back before the drought:

warm wind, rain drenching, solid humid heat.

 

The Appalachians point their toes and feet

southward underneath the trees I know.

Warm wind, rain drenching, solid humid heat,

when no cold winds do so poetically blow.

 

Southward underneath the trees I know,

the dogwood, hickory, oak and longleaf pine.

When no cold winds do so poetically blow,

I sit and smoke and think of them as mine

 

The dogwood, hickory, oak and longleaf pine

show spring just on the heels of recent ice.

I sit and smoke and think of them as mine

when fruitless pear trees blossom edelweiss.

 

Show spring just on the heels of recent ice,

it’s dry before there’s time for them to freeze.

When fruitless pear trees blossom edelweiss,

there’s never snow like flowers on these trees.