Two Sonnets with Rivers and Trees
The trees’ reflections lie like faithful wives
upon the river’s rippling satin sheet. . . .
But this is just a simile. . . .The knives
I’ve used to prune real trees in summer heat;
that hacked the sprouts, that lopped the lower limbs
of sapling apples, pears, and plums; that kissed
my too-slow fingers, tasting blood. . . .I’ve pissed
my skills—and half this poem—away. . . .“Sing hymns
to rivers, knives, and trees! And sex! And love!”
is what I mean to say. A riverbank
is where I met my wife-to-be. Above
our house stretch maple, poplar, apple starred
with lip-pink fruit. My wedding finger’s scarred.
It’s true: I have a pruning knife to thank.
The Avon, Huron, Arno, Tiber, Thames:
some rivers I have seen but never swum.
The banyan, mangrove, breadfruit, rubber, gum:
these northern hands have never touched their stems.
But I remember young and drunken love
beside the purling Nishnabotna once.
Mosquitoes bit my ass; I was a dunce
to teenage lust, but blessed. A mourning dove
perched cooing yesterday within our burled
crab apple tree; our neighbors’ orange cat
lay coiled beneath. No, I’m no Adam; you’re
no Eve—but we have eaten tree-fruits that
both cleared our eyes and numbed our minds. Our world
is flux: a river fouled, then spring-fed, pure.
[First appeared in Blood Orange 10 (Spring/Summer 2008)]