Poetry November 2011

Maple Gall

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What looks at first like rotten fruit,
hung round the maple’s slender trunk,
we know’s a tortured cluster of
malignancies where cells grow drunk
with larvae, mites or fungus, worms,
with virus or bacteria,
and multiply as tumors, bulge
of goiters, awful excess growths.
But when you look at all the gross
disfigurements at closer range
you see the beauty of distortion,
the sculpture of disease, the strange
and replicating work the tree
is not supposed to yield, a flowery
production so grotesque it seems
a kind of miracle in wood
that makes this sapling both unique
and memorable by virtue of
its suffering swollen sores and scars,
the warts that are its finest art.

Robert Morgan is the author of many books of poetry and prose, including the collection Terroir and Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion, both out this year. He teaches at Cornell University.
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