the quiet patience of chinquapin, chokecherry . . . .their years in nesting circles…each
of black tupelo, mossy oak cup, slippery elm…none
of us remembers except Ailanthus, the tree of heaven, but
in my third springtime I carried a baby blue jay through pilose…climbed
a pine and gave her back to her mother
…all the other years …after the clearances
I carried myself adding layers
of hackberry, hornbeam, catalpa pods opening…closing…marcescent…
counting the rings of each new start…
pedicel from a conifer bog… . . . .nannyberry hear me
…my quiet noise
. . . .…what if I lit a match? . . . .what if I took an axe?
during the sap season the maples dripped
from what was carved there…into my skin
…sweet as the fingers of a little girl…
Editor’s note: My botany classes are far behind me, so much of this poem required some time spent on the interwebz looking up word definitions. This time was decidedly well-spent. The poem’s specific references serve as small doors into the world of the narrator and her story of plants and trees, and why they matter.
Author’s note: In the Schoolcraft Library’s rare books room, Trees of Michigan, is an exhaustive record of hundreds and hundreds of native trees, many now extinct.