The Tree

(from A Field Guide to the Heavens)

Then God said to me, stop
feeling sorry for yourself─isn’t it
enough that I love you? But I was
angry and sleepy in that indistinct way
when dreams linger like a fog in your head
all morning long, and I went out
to the work I grudged: God wanted me
to walk through the garden naming things,
but the wind was coming off the ocean six
miles down the boulevard, and a mockingbird
Sat on the roof painting the whole house with
polyphonies, and then the finches and
the gray doves and the parkway crows
began lighting up the eaves and the canopies,
and then God told me to be humble, so I trellised
the sweet peas and hosed the spall and whitefly
from the citrus leaves, and I was thinking
the whole time about love, how so many live
and die without it, and what that must mean,
but God rebuked me and bade me wrestle
with the tree, so I took the saw and hatchet
down to the narrow place along the neighbor’s
cinder blocks and prepared to cut and hack,
as I do each spring, this anonymous tree
that sends out its runners, and God said,
That tree will strangle your roses and
smite your false heather─
left alone it will crack the sidewalk
and rise up waving and whistling, and so I
attacked the saplings that had sprung up
window-high and wrist-thick along
its buried roots, and I chopped and I
sawed, and the leaves shivered green and gray
in the morning light, and a shower of small
orange moths burst up like hands dancing
all around my head, and I looked at them
and saw how they moved in the world, like
light bouncing from shadow to shadow;
and I saw their terror.



More Poems from A Field Guide to the Heavens:

When Lilacs