Amy Gerstler

How do trees grieve?

Clichés tell us

the double-over willow

weeps subtle tears

which flavor the lake

as her trailing branches

tickle its waters, grazing

the occasional drowned hand.

Perhaps this stand of liquid amber

inwardly wilts as adult trees sway

above hacked saplings,

mauled shrubs, trampled grasses—

I've told that gardener

more than once he's got

a butcher's handshake.

Ancient, headstrong elms

drool clear juices

humans aren't astute enough

to transfuse,

after tree surgeons

ignorant of trunk or leaf anesthesia

perform chainsaw amputations.

Ever sensitive, the soul

of a broadleafed maple

felled for veneer sleeps

fitfully within my coffee table.

Once its cells ate light

and manufactured green sweetness.

I grip this form, napkin on my lap,

daunted by wronged objects.

This enraged verse. The sawtoothed

spirit gleaming in my grapefruit spoon.

I can't even have breakfast

without laying waste. It's my

nature. Grain ground to flour,

molded into loaves

for toast: forgive me.

We never learned to tread gently.

Now our dwindling joys 

are mass-produced or imagined. 

Stolen clothes muffle us,

cloaks and turbans mask

our earthly scents. Travel by camel.

Subsist on bacon drippings. Do no harm.

The bamboo bench thirsts and creaks

at floodtime. So do I,

though for the past several generations

I've been editing my amends:

this many-paged treatise

on the color of seawater.

Found In Volume 26, No. 05
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Amy Gerstler
About the Author

Amy Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. Gerstler's more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), and Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year.