- Reading the Poem About the Yew Tree
Reading the poem about the yew tree, I realize I do not recall the trees of my youth, the particular leafy shapes and blooming seasons and their moist odors in the heat. I could look them up in a tree guide and mend the holes in my memory— but then it would not be my memory, it would be the guide’s.
All I remember today is the rapid chatter of tea-colored women, their plump arms, fingers reaching out to pinch us when we were small; lips passing hushed remarks about others in the town, like branches shifting in the wind. The grownups talked as if they hadn’t heard any local news but had to inquire after rumors. You mean to say she is tolerating that scoundrel Gopal? (though they’d all been to the wedding). And their voices always verged on anticipation, as if waiting for a great event to unfold— a heavy rain to cool the grass or the breeze with some news. But they were indoors perpetually expecting another guest to arrive, so that when the somebody appeared they would congratulate the guest in unison: See that, we were just speaking of you,you will live long.
Now, planning a trip to my homeplace, I’m told our friends are gone, have moved or passed away. But I imagine the same kinds of trees are growing now as then, and they will be expecting me when I arrive.
Works by Reetika Vazirani
• Letter to a Husband
• Reading the Poem About the Yew Tree
Reetika Vazirani is a recipient of a 1994 “Discovery”/The Nation award. Her poems have appeared in various periodicals, including Agni, The American Voice, The Kenyon Review, The Literary Review and The Nation. In 1990, her poems first began appearing in Callaloo.