Near the top of the mountain
Across the grief of February’s empty arms
A single maple bursts into red buds.
The tree is not predicting spring, I note
And though alone, as I am, driving past,
Is not a symbol of courage, or a prophet, as I think I’d like.
It’s a being of air and earth, maybe keener
Than its cohorts at sensing a change in soil
Or air enabling itself to change
Into its next self. In the morning
I hear the birds it cannot hear that tell me things
Are on their way to April. I have my own cues
To draw from me the things I grow.
But that can’t be all: the Anglo-Saxon maple harp,
Excavated from a barrow in Berkshire,
Still struck an open chord
Across the dirt of centuries.
The maple love spoons carved by Welsh
Ancestors hang on the thrift store wall
And can still be recognized for what they are:
A domestic object wrought with
A passion undomestic and ornate. The maple
Is durable for carving and can hold personal feelings
Far longer than the body can. Long after grief
Has run its course and the forces of air and earth
Have consumed us back into the world of unerring matter
And our family trees severed from this single point
Of meeting. Maybe that’s why this maple means
What it means to me, alone and driving by.
from the collection The Artificial Horizon