If You Have Trees


“You don’t want trees,” the appraiser said,

“You need to cut them down

To increase the value of your home.

Because if you have trees

You will will have leaves

That will fall and clog your gutters, litter your lawn

And blanket your garden.

You will need to climb ladders,

To rake and bag and and haul off

Leaves by the thousands.

You will worry when the wind is strong

And the trees bend and sometimes break

And their twigs and branches will fall

And need to be picked up

So you can mow your perfect green lawn.

You will have birds dropping their waste,

Streaking your windshields and decks.

You will have pollen in the spring

That coats your car and deck with fuzzy green

And makes you sneeze

And sneeze

and sneeze.”


He is right, of course.

If you have trees you will have leaves,

Soft green in spring deepening and ripening

To emerald in summer, gold and ruby in fall.

You will have blossoms that perfume the air

and bear forth good fruit.


You will have shade for summer picnics,

Kindling for your fire,

Mulch for your gardens.

You will watch your trees sway and dance in the wind,

As graceful as any dancer, as sturdy as any man-built thing.

You will have pen-and-ink lines

Drawn stark and graceful

Against cold winter skies,

Sometimes outlined in snowy white

Or icy, icy crystal.

Christmas Day 08 005

You will have birds,

Cardinals and robins and chickadees,

Bluejays and wrens and sparrows

And you will watch the birds court, build their nests,

And raise their young to fly, fly, fly

If you have trees.

Allegheny Echoes 2014 197

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Storm Warning

Bright sun on white sheets;

on the horizon thunder.

Black clouds pile with threat.

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Take as Needed

The neighbors put up hay today

and in the field a Massey Ferguson rested

on sheets of felled grass and all

washed in the gold of mid-June evening sun

while I, passing and with no camera,

hesitated only a moment

to register the sight

then hurried on, leaving

the ripe hay, the aged tractor

and gilded light

to be remembered

when a place of peace

is needed.

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A tray with a rose, a glass,
a wicker chair under a maple tree,
and me in my nightgown because
I have nowhere I need to be and nothing
I need to do. In the basket at my feet green
glass sweats with chill beneath crisp linen.
My feet, bare and nestled in soft grass,
are damp with the leftover morning dew.
Even though
it is only noon I pull the cork,
pour gold into crystal,
slide down in the cushions
and sip
and sip
and sigh.


With thanks to First50.com for the prompt!

wicker chair

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Blue Watering Can

In her front yard, a peach tree heavy with fruit,

around its base a tractor tire filled with ditch dirt

where she plants tomatoes in cages

and waters them with a blue watering can;

cigarette smoke hovers around her head hung with silver strands

that drift in wisps to her waist. Winstons and matches

are always in the pocket of her cotton apron

when she is in the garden because she cannot smoke inside.

When the watering is done and she sits

in a wood rocker on the porch of the built-on trailer

that once was their camp but is now their home,

winter or summer, spring or fall,

and finishes her smoke with long, slow drags, making it last,

making it last.

Over the hill from the peach tree the coonhounds shift sadly on their chains

and one jumps to the roof of his dog house

as if to better see the road, the trailer, and the man inside

who wheezes with the steady beat of the oxygen tank

and watches hunting shows on TV, as if maybe one night

he will unchain the dogs, grab his gun, and walk the midnight hills again.

She waits in her rocker, puffing blue billows, and looking at the tree,

the tomatoes, the road, at nothing and everything,

one day after another, like all the others; she sees the peaches swell,

the tomatoes redden and ripen, and listens

to the steady hiss of oxygen, the exhale of life,

the coming of winter.



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One Red Sock

I took them off, two of them, as I sat on the side of the bed. I remember

pushing  one off with my foot, reaching down to pull the other

from my right foot.

In the morning there was just one on the floor,

alone against the pine boards.

I looked under the bed,

under the dresser,

under the rug.

No sock.


Today I washed the dark clothes, and hung them with wooden pins

on wire lines to dry in wind and sun.

Hanging without its match it is a red letter accusation,

its toe pointing out my failure to find the missing sock.


I searched again in places

the sock could never have gone all on its own, and yet

Who knows? Who can say

what a sock might do when it’s loose upon the world,

single and no mate to speak caution and care?

It is gone like my missing favorite silver earring,

like the one who gave the earrings as a gift,

like the me who wore the flashing silver in ears hidden

beneath streaming windblown hair,

like the summer the sun shone on those auburn strands,

like the days we thought would never end

and we would never lose who we were then,

resting our red-socked feet against a stony wall.

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I gave you a name: Jonathan.
I gave you brothers: four.
I gave you my heart: one.
I gave all I knew to give,
and then you were gone.
An instant,
an ice storm,
a truck,
a phone call. That was all,

this wound in my heart,
this hole in our family,
this loss of one, this

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