Hard to believe, but the remnants of Ike ripped down two enormous white pines at my parents' house in Cincinnati. They--and many others--are without power, but okay.
During my visit in August, a large hickory tree fell from the woods behind their house. We were lucky that it had broken halfway up: only about fifteen feet of it landed in the yard.
One plants a tree, it's been said, for the next generation. . . We expect them to outlive us. I know--knew--these trees. They could be seen from a half-mile away. They marked the turn into my parents' driveway the way three church steeples here in Lewisburg, seen from across the river, mark the block where I live now. One of the first trees I ever climbed as a child was a white pine: the "short pine," we called it, because its top had been blasted away by a storm.
I'm going to miss those trees.
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This week's featured chapbook, Joshua Poteat's Meditations, was published in 2005 as part of the Poetry Society of America's chap series. Joshua doesn't need me to laud this collection--his work is hip-deep in accolades--but I have to say that I love reading and re-reading these poems.
Here's part six of "Meditations in the Margins of the 1941 Catalogue of Dover Books":
vi. The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Today, the sky is the color of a pigeon's throat,
not the roof of wild pear. And the light
a sluggish vellum that gauzes the mountain
and the fields below it . . . the cow pond
cowless, weighted with leaves that are turning
the water slowly black, so when winter comes
the ice knows where to go.
This is what I'm talking about.
All that decrescendo, from sky to ice,
isn't going to get us anywhere.
There's no passion in it, no star
to navigate the pyre of wasp nests
in the orchard. I remember my sister, years ago,
furious at the piano, her small hands cramping
the notes meant for a four-hundred-year-old
harpsichord. Morley, Byrd, Bull, Gibbons.
Names that would haunt her all summer
with notes only ghosts compose,
names that swarmed our house,
until the 17th century fell deep into
the dog's mouth, the goldfish bowl,
in the red-headed woodpecker
hammering on the shingles.
Our father, who feared nothing
but sleep, escaped to the pine bower
to soak his ears in sap.
There are songs that have saved lives,
and songs that have ended them.
These were neither.
I'm not complaining.
I want the air, for once, to clear
and the night to come down to me as it used to,
there under the pines, as I watched
my father close his eyes against the evening,
the piano a distamt wind over the marshes,
but close enough to hear the blossoms
of my sister's arms wilt and crumble.
JeFF Stumpo, Against Itself Cannot Stand
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