M A Y 1 9 9 6
THE MARRIAGE IN THE TREESby Stanley Plumly
Hear Stanley Plumly read this poem (in RealAudio).
(For help, see a note about the audio.)
When the wind was right everything else
was wrong. The oak we thought built
better than the house split like a ship
on rock. We let it stand the winter,
spectral, shagged, every sky its snow,
then cut it down, dismantled it in
pieces like disease. Then limbs from
the yellow poplar broke at will--
fell from the heights like bones
of the Puritans; even to gather them
in bundles seemed puritanical.
And the willow, by its nature, wept
long tears of its overbranching,
so pale they were autumnal. These
we turned too easily to switches,
mocking the bickering in the spruce's
nesting eaves, which crows, then jays,
bothered all they could. The list,
the list. The sycamore made maps
of disappearance; the copper beech,
parental in its girth, was clipped
hard, by a car, with a wound that wouldn't
heal. Doctoring, then witchery, then
love--nothing we tried would work.
More apple trees that grew nowhere
but down. More maples spilling sugar.
More hawthorns blazing out, telling truth.
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1996; The Marriage in the Trees; Volume 277, No. 5; page 103.