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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Up a Tree

Thirty feet up

     the tallest tree in my backyard, the branches

     parted—a leafy window pointed east,

     towards the Sierras.

From the ground they were invisible,

obscured by trees not native to this dry ground,

cancelled by houses

utterly obliterated by living rooms

               with table lamps on doilies

     to protect polished wood surfaces which reflected

     only the empty, round interiors of the lamps above.

The social circle tightened around my neck.

Skirts and necklaces, twirling waltzes each Thursday night

     ringed me round.

Yet all the land leaned east, into the mountains, unacknowledged

down below—an

unwelcome guest, an

embarrassing relative, too large, too undomesticated

for these lace curtains over

windows closed against the dust.

The snows that whitened those slopes so rarely reached us,

it might as well, I thought, be never, and I was

parched

panting for those distances

even for that cold

air that seared the throat, after this heavy farmer’s air

the smell of the canneries clogging our lungs,

     asparagus, strawberries,

the fields stopping barely ten miles from the State

     Capital building.

I swore that afternoon I’d never come down.

And when I did (the third time Mother called) I swore

     I’d get there. That afternoon,

I promised my heart to the mountains.

 

Perhaps that was the only promise of love

I ever made not

               grudgingly given. And even then,

     so defiant.

With Cory, I’d get difficult, suspicious. Not

     of him, precisely, certainly not jealous; but of

     love itself, I think, its promises and possibilities.

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