- Four Short Poems with Trees
The clouds have come down,the trees stick in themlike pins. Water chatters
at the lake-mouth, downthe stepped spillwayof the dam. It makes a kind
of amphitheater, you note—do they play small tragedies?All’s blurred as Ophelia
but for a V of geese, their brokenlines dividing cloudand cloud, identical flyways
healing in their wake.
Still world, movement ofbirds provided for, at the feedershummingbird, finches—
and the green of the winter fairwayan alley of firs wherethe groundskeeper drives [End Page 597]
his little paradise machine,preparing the way
for a hopscotch of bushtits, a whitecrownedsparrow noodling ata branch, juncos gamboling
at the base of the feeder.The tips of the firs befogged.The world goes on, one
cracked husk then another.
Today the treetops are on fire—a foolish charioteer too close to Earth.
It’s the angle of it warms or burns us.
Help me to see, to be repeated each day.When necessary, teach me the science.
The child under the pines is gatheringcones, cradling them, his free hand
adding more, and for each two addedthree fall out. Still he pursues this project
with a reformer’s zeal. Five times a daythis little park fills like a bellows [End Page 598]
with passengers waiting for a ferry.And now the single blast from the bay—
and the boy is gathered by his fatherwho is gathered by the crowd. A scatter
of pine cones under the tree. Let us begathered, they say, let us
raise ourselves soundlessly reachingfor the luff and lift of our overcast skies. [End Page 599]
Robert McNamara has published three books of poetry, most recently Incomplete Strangers (Lost Horse Press), and a co-translation of The Cat Under the Stairs, selected poems of the Bengali poet Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay. He makes his home in Seattle.