The catalpa invited itself to the mysterious space behind the garden
where the squirrels traffic and the ivy reigns. There wasn’t much sun
to be claimed, from the site of its audacious rooting, stuck to a destiny
at the intersecting shadows of the house and the neighor’s towering pine.
But in years to come it snaked its way up from the pooling shade
to the path of the rays, always meagerly claiming enough of them
that it grew, and one day I found it. I almost destroyed it. I did not know
but could fear the risk in roots of unknown strength and temperament
conspiring around my aging foundation. Sometimes love rises up
from unexpected corners, to surprise and delight us. It is rarely
worry-free. So I left this interloper to grope for the light, intrigued,
I suppose, by the serpentine trunk and broad, charming leaves
so unlike the green around it. Thus agreed, we became fellow travellers
rooted in uncertainty and moving out toward our hopeful futures.
One day, it flowered in gratitude. Delicate white frills, deep-cupped and
marked by artful stripes, like a dancer’s skirt, like exploded peppermints
arranged on a verdant platter. Delight. Yes, gardens (like everything)
change, but even if someday there is no longer room for the catalpa,
there will always have been this bloom.

The callery pear is leaning. I guess it grew naively into this lazy slant
and why they let this persist is a mystery. A plant gives you ample time
to correct, to straighten out lines. But they, animal and negligent,
watched the young suppleness harden into this permanent tilt,
warp settling seasonally into the growing bones of the wood. Still,
it holds its own, strong enough by far to bear your weary weight.
So I wrapped the hammock strands several times securely around it
and I lie in ease beneath its shivering leaves. Some call its kind
invasive, an unstoppable arboreal monster in conquest. A mistake.
But to me, though its fruits are hard and bizarre, it is always bowed
in service, forever tipped toward me, toward the southern sun.
They tell me it will live a short life and fall apart, so then maybe,
while it lives I should not trust it with the soft burden of my body,
stretched out so supine—and, to be honest and metaphorical,
also somewhat slanted—under its teetering, temporary length.
But to love is to give yourself to risk.

The peach is a consummate giver. It tears itself apart annually
in frenzies of creation, of donation. It hoards nectary juices
in all its beautiful fruits. It just doesn’t know when to quit.
Every year I have to brace it up against its own peachy fervor.
May I too be ever unsure of the borders of my loving.
This year an elderly neighbor came to knock, inquiring after
the fate of the reddening harvest. They’re ready, she claimed.
Have you noticed? Do you want them? I’ll gladly take some!
They were still firm. I turned her away, suddenly jealous of
my due, my fruity reward. Minutes later I rethought, burst forth
from my cool selfishness, ran into the heat and caught her up,
promised her a bagful. I’ve lived here since 1980, she said.
I love peaches. Days later, I brought twenty golden, glowing orbs
of the hundreds, for which I could not devise ways enough
to use, to eat, to give, to save, to thank.

The locust is branching majesty. It rose up tall and wide in back
and often have its shimmering leaf-strings shaded our days.
But one year its summer yearning led it to an ardent stretching
that ultimately proved unfit for the load of winter’s cruelest burden.
A mighty branch was lost one white morning, crashing down
in a powdery shower, to rest on the angle of the swingset.
It seemed a tragedy, but a kind of unseen omen occurred
while I cut its broken ends. Chainsaw cheering, I vaulted away
surprised as it swung up and found a perfect seesaw balance
at the apex of the A-frame. Teetering up, tottering down,
caught like me between oafish overbearing and halting hesitance,
it stretched aloft one final time above me. I love the locust.
And two years further on, the remains of that December rending
have birthed a blessing; the stark ugly scar has now become
the new golden epicenter of a burst of radiant twigs. High above,
a frenzy of hopeful growth quests out from the site of the breaking
in search of sunnier spaces. This is healing held up to the light,
not just a repair, but something young and wild and wonderful
shooting out from the ravaged cracks.

Programmer-poet.

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