My gift for his fiftieth birthday,a Japanese maple, buds swollenand ready to release first leaves.After planting he digs a smallpool underneath, lines itwith cement edged with rocks.This mirror, shaped like a uterus,reflects the tree as it rises,the soft green lace spreadingits wings. “Womb,” we whispered,little girls in church singingthe word, that secret place whichunder the bare branches of December,holds the sun, moon, and stars.
Honeybees hum in the chimneyas they work, nothing deterringthem from their devotion to our home,not smoke, chemicals, or beekeepers.Forty years of honey storedinside the brick flue for generationsunknown, all of it perfectlypacked into tiny compartments,much like our own gatheringand storing, what we guard likeworker bees fanning the queen.In a dream the chimney overflowsin summer heat, honey streamingover the roof. Time to sort, to giveand throw away, I say, tossingbooks, clothes, even money.And still I awaken into disbelief—my unimaginable abandonment.O sweet world, your mornings of lipsand birdsong. The deep sleep of winter.
Command or description, I wantto glow as I walk through my day,as I glide through the hallsof the nursing home where I find youdozing in your bed. I want youto see how I’m learning to float,the air thinning between our kisses.And yet, the weight—harvest of moonand fruit heavy with sugar. In Augustheat I lift a melon, smell this longsummer pressed against the earth,what I will carry to you tomorrow,offering slices of remembrance.
“ I can see people, but they look like trees walking.” —Gospel of Mark
Trees with one leg, walking,spit of Jesus on his eyes,arms pointing up to a high dazzleas all around him a crowdof sound is becoming visible.What once was a small rumbleon the tips of his fingers, nowpours into him like a river,a drenching of light and shadow.He trembles on this new threshold.Is he man or tree? And did the Healeralso touch the crown of leaveswhich now looks back at himwith a thousand eyes?
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.