The farm wife muses upon her Miracle Tree

Everyone laughed
when it arrived in a legal-sized
envelope and I showed them

the ad: “For 19.99, watch it
reach your roofline in a year.”
Just as that stick, plain

as a toothpick, unfurled a leaf
Pete clipped it
with the mower. That’s it,

I thought, but it grew back
above the red petunias
I added ’round its base.

We could use a miracle here,
with the cows gone
and the house in reverse

mortgage. But when it
spouted slender branches
with narrow leaves

even the Schwan Man
who measured each week
lost interest. I ponder

the name Salix babylonica
and how merchants
traded sprigs of those trees

along the Silk Road. Already
it weeps like a woman,
I write in my diary. Already

my neighbors dismiss it
as a dirty tree.

Plastic Santa

It’s January and plastic Santa
still plays his golden sax
outside a store on Jinhuapu Lu.
His mechanized twiggy legs
are barely hid
as they twitch in tandem
in his thin flannel pants—
Christmas red, of course,
and his lips as brown as tofu
hang a full two inches behind
the sax’s cracked reed.
Poor man! Even the dogs—
Pekingese, Chihuahuas and others—
step around him as they snuffle
for a swatch of sun to jazz their bones
on this cold day.


God is carnal? Yes! God
has got to be flesh and blood. Bones too
like any one of us. A child
can’t go to sleep in a dark room
unless someone is right there beside her.
Someone with some skin.

Oregon grape

(Mahonia nervosa)

Oregon grape, what makes you so sour today—
or every day, for that matter? Your blue berries,
ripe to bursting, look delicious but they’re not.

Some native peoples would not eat them altogether.
Others, only intermixed with sweeter berries
from other plants—huckleberries, for example.

Are you jealous of your upland cousin,
thriving in subalpine meadows,
you stuck down here in the woods?

Listen: your little leaves in bending ladders,
dark green and shining like the holly,
lift me into holiday spirits. I’m serious.

With you it is Christmas in the gloom.
If you could just be happy about it,
I might forgive you for your flavor.

                                         —Ross Lake National Recreation Area

So much

At year’s end, when all is sad and done in,
we gasp as clouds of smoke appear.
But it’s only the yews spewing pollen, outdoing
chimneys as if it were spring. That
and speech about Mideast peace as juncos
reseed themselves, the Christmas rose
flops open to cold, and Barney the cat
perfects his new trick—he unbars our door.

He stares.
(He prefers indoors.)
But right there’s the morning star,
just like the chorale’s. And up close, trouble—
a pup hunting kibble and warmth. And there’s more. Mt. Rainier
shows up in pink and blue bunting. So clear. Such fresh-powder glory.
The sleepy volcano seems suddenly haloed, huge, and near. So much
for our little stable.