Tree of Knowledge

This is what happens
when you start making up
your own mind:

the tree drops its tantalizing fruit,
sheds its leaves, & the woodlot
shrinks around it

until it stands alone in a line
of fence posts & telephone poles,
trembling neurons sifting the wind for sparrows.

You become as gods,
endlessly bifurcating,
simple as stinkhorns.

In place of paradise
there’s a field, a pasture,
a dishy blankness of sky.


In response to an image prompt at Read Write Poem. Other responses are linked here.

Photo by camila tulcan, licenced under a Creative Commons license.

Pigeon at the Temple of Rats

in response to a photo by Pete McGregor

Walls rattle like a threshing machine,
the floor heaves — no place to land
among the tight-packed
mass of mendicants.
A pigeon watches the feeding
from the safety of a roof, first
with one orange eye
& then the other:
these are thieves & nest predators.
Their outlandish beaks are studded
with egg teeth, but unlike chicks
they show no sign they’ll ever
grow feathers. To them, perhaps,
the earth is still all egg.
What makes them holy?
They drop onto their clawed
forelimbs & crawl, brown
fur against the dirt, as if
it never occurred to them to fly.

For the Read Write Poem prompt, “(not) following the rules.” Other responses are here.

Poem for Display in a Shopping Mall Food Court

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Public Poems


No porridge here!
Everything is always
just right.
Times & temperatures are set
by central decree.
They strain the plankton from the fryers
once a shift.

Here, you have choices.
You can pick a different
transnational brand of transfat
for every course.
You serve yourself — who better? —
in bucket-shaped seats.

Discrimination has no place here;
there’s room for everyone
with six dollars in their wallet.
True, the fixed gap between seat
& table edge may make
hunchbacks of some
& force others to sit sideways,
the prow of a distended gut
catching crumbs in lieu of a tray.
But they’re neither too hard
nor too soft, these seats.
E pluribus unum:
all asses conform
to Formica.

For the Read Write Poem prompt, political poetry. Other responses here.

Easter eggs

snow egg

Yesterday was the first snowy Easter I can remember. I went for a walk and found, among other things, a loose jumbly nest of sticks at the top of a Hercules’-club tree that cradled a small mound of snow, and not far away, an egg-shaped melt-spot on the surface of a rock, resting in the shadows of branches. Without meaning to, it seemed, I’d gone on an Easter egg hunt. It made me think back…

Easter morning when I was small
meant candy — the first since Halloween;
a gift or two, usually including a new kite,
which I would struggle valiantly to fly
in the mountaintop’s transverse winds;
& a half-dozen eggs I had helped
to dye myself, those that weren’t already
sea-green or blue because they’d been laid
by one of our Araucana hens. We used
all-natural materials, especially
onion skins, which imparted a yellow
or orange tint depending on how long
we left the eggs in the dye bath.
Wrapping them in ferns or tree leaves
made lacy patterns where the veins
lay against the shell. It was as if
we were enacting a dream of barnyard fowl
to return to the trees.

Somehow even knowing what we would find,
& despite the fact that hard-boiled eggs
can’t compete for taste sensation with a chocolate bar,
it was still exciting to paw down through
the green plastic straw — reused year
after year — & lift them out, bright & smooth
as pebbles on a beach. Cracking such an egg
was a solemn occasion.
It made us mindful, admiring the shell
even as we split & crumbled it, & underneath
the slick flesh no longer white, but onion-colored.
The last discovery then would be a bit
anti-climatic: the yolk a dark orange
as with any egg from a chicken that’s free to roam,
to bathe in the dust, & for whatever reason,
madly flapping in front of oncoming cars,
to cross the road.

In response to the Read Write Poem prompt, “Go green!” Links to other responses may be found here.


leaf hand

I was dealt a singular hand, & learned
to do tricks with the light:
sun sugar, bittering
at an insect’s approach.
I donned a conjurer’s robe of air plants.
Below ground I have discovered
the prosthetic tooth of a glacier,
round & granitic, & I hold it
like hard candy in my mind,
that ultimate rope trick of rootlets
& mycorrhizal hyphae
that never quite touch.

In response to the Read Write Poem prompt, “be a tree.” Other responses are here.

(UPDATE) Hyphae, also called mycelia, are the “roots” of fungi; mycorrhizal means they are symbiotic with plants. See here:

In the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis between fungi and trees, the fungus completely ensheaths the tree roots and takes over water and mineral nutrient supply, while the plant supplies photosynthate. Recent work has focussed on gene expression in the two partners, on the effects of global change and nitrogen deposition rate on the symbiosis, and on the role of mycorrhizal fungi in connecting individual plants to form a ‘wood-wide web’.