Published in Willow Springs (Fall 2015)
I will come,
but here are my terms:
We will not walk the stone path, down past the
hydrangeas and rambling rose,
your dahlia beds,
the weeping willow, the red elm.
We will not take that tour,
along the fence overgrown with white jasmine,
to the back gate.
You will not hook your arm into mine;
pretend a familiar fit; remember
the tree house, the broken arm,
the maypoles of willow branches,
summer picnics in the elm’s shade;
pruning your memories—
spindly, pale things that don’t take root,
don’t transplant well.
(I remember the gate.
The field beyond.
Your dark silhouette from my window.
The red glow of cigarettes.)
Most of all, you will not point up into the far reaches
of the Norway spruce, so tall its shadow falls across the lawn,
and remind me you planted it the year I was born.
And you will not say, as you always do, look how it has done!,
(you stressing “look”; me hearing “it”).
Either way, no more measuring its growth
against my own, as if your green thumb was all
the mothering I should have needed.
I hate that tree. Childish, I know,
but knowing does not make me hate it less.
Ever green, ever growing, through all of it.
Shadow too, a circle, a swath, an expanse.
Not once did it do the decent thing—
uproot in a high wind and crash through the roof,
offer itself to a lightning bolt and cleave in two,
erupt into flames, fueled by
the heat of your restless longing.