Four-week old chicks, learning to roost.
The Telling that Changes Everything XXI.
July 15, 2012
Man is the tree that walks.–Light Food 27 (1989)
For Gene, whose mosaic blue tree fed this poem.
It is my hands that feed: the chicks and hens,
my children and grandchildren, my friends,
myself; my hands that loosen the new raspberries
and hunt the last of the blueberries. My hands
wash the dishes, scrub the kitchen floor,
shovel pine shavings into the chicks’ room;
dig, plant, grab the huge grass clumps and
jerk them free, then pound them against the
ground to loosen the earth caught in their
roots. My hand moves this pen across
the page. Once my hands held babies,
fed, stroked, changed diapers, rocked,
burped, tickled. My hands tell the story
of the tree I am. I, too, have my seasons,
sometimes bereft: where are my leaves?
What happened to my fruit? But in this
season of my life, three-quarters lived,
I bloom and make fruit as never before.
You might not find me easily. I live
on the back wall of a garage in a modest
Durham neighborhood. The many phases
and seasons of my life are implied but
not in focus here. Here I live a joy as blue
as a serene lake where the current runs
deep but doesn’t ripple the surface, and
the sky penetrates the water it sees below.
I still work hard. You will see my limbs
in motion, a form of dance if you pay
close attention. You didn’t expect to see
new buds or fully ripe fruit? Both are
possible when a tree is planted where
it has always longed to be, a home that,
if not permanent on earth, is, in some
sense, eternal, despite, or maybe because
of so much change, in our past, our
present, and well into future time. Hold
in your mind this vison of a blue tree, in
dance ecstatic, needing no name or
century. You’ll remember the hands.