The Tree of Fire
The tree comes to me
for the first time in weeks.
When did all its colors,
like some commercial for dying,
start shooting out of its skin?
This morning, we fucked
each other into a regular
backyard bonfire―cold wood
turned to dazzle in the fine,
fine flame. And now, this tree
breaks into view, fat red leaves
that demand the loudest
howling siren, and I think―
This tree has been here
all this time, and I didn’t notice.
I swear, I’ll try harder not to
miss as much: The tree, or how
your fingers under still
coaxed all my colors back.
I swear, I won’t forget
how the fire feels, or all
the care you took
to light it.
I’m cold in my heart, coal-hard
knot in the mountain buried
deep in the boarded-up mine. So,
I let death in, learn to prospect
the between dreams of the dying,
the one dream that tells you when
to throw up, the other, when
you’re in pain. I tell you
I will love someone that you
will never meet, death’s warm
breath at the mouth
of the body’s holler.
You are crying in the shower.
I am crying near the shower.
Your body a welcomed-red
fire-starter in steam and I think,
how scared I would be
if I were death. How could I
come to this house, come
to this loved being, see
the mountain’s power
and dare blast you down.
I dry you off and think,
if I were death come to take you,
your real-earth dynamite,
I would be terrified.
All day’s been a cut above even keel.
The laundry bag broke, the shoe’s
cheap heel stuck in the pavement’s
backbreaker, and the news made its awful
jaw-talk but, somehow, I’m upright.
Rolling the big stone up the hill.
God forgive the panting persistence
of life’s pull. Sea storms of the ancient
punishing paranoia of failure and the crafty
quicksand of task-to-task. But, I am aiming
to be effective here. I trust the day’s dare of,
Finish me, so at the end I will stand at the near top
of the dusking hill, my hand on your chest,
just a deserved pause, before the inevitable
descent. I know it will go on like this.
Sometimes, you’ll be the boulder,
and I’ll be that mythic-pusher.
Sometimes, I’ll be the stubborn-ist stone,
pleading for a freefall before the end.
And, so what? Camus said, One must imagine
Sisyphus happy. And I am.
As long as you are my eternal work,
my unending up and down,
my awesome devotion.
Some blur of a bird makes
a kid-like laugh out of sea air
and we, heart-hardy, kick
a crack-up back at it like
the opposite of throwing stones.
Like releasing tiny hot air
balloons up, moon-bound
and hell-bent on defying
the usual gravity of this spin.
Sky, here, we toss a bone
into your open endlessness,
the sound of crackle, a timber
of animal-warmth. Oh let us be
a bird flying wholly for the sake
of flying, to be that breath-
machine that even the anchored
earth-bound wavers want
to root for, want to look up
and say, rally, rally, win.
The Saving Tree
This is the cooling part of the fever,
when everything: the jumping girder
of the Golden Gate’s red limb, the tall
metal tree house of the Empire State,
the black rock cliff on the Sonoma Coast,
the drawer’s leftover pills, the careless
cut, the careening car, the cross walk,
the stop/go, the give up, give up, done,
all of it, slows to a real nice drive by. A view
of some tree breathing and the mind’s wheels
ease up on the pavement’s tug. That tree,
that one willowy thing over there,
can save a life, you know? It saves
by not trying, a leaf like some note
slipped under the locked blue door
(bathtub full, despair’s drunk), a small
live letter that says only, Stay.
Ada Limón is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Wreck (Autumn House Press, 2006), This Big Fake World (Pearl Editions, 2007), and Sharks in the Rivers (Milkweed Editions, 2010). Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including, The New Yorker, Harvard Review, and Poetry Daily. She is currently at work on a novel, a book of essays, and a new collection of poems. http://adalimon.com/adalimon.com/Enter.html
Return to Inaugural Edition