Its leaves are always praying—this is why the cottonwood tree is sacred among some Native American peoples. Perhaps most of us have holy places to which we return. Perhaps someone reading this has had, on occasion, the sudden impulse to enter once again–alone–a remembered house of worship or one to which other pilgrims likewise have been drawn.
To a Cottonwood Beside Lake Ericson
Ever a visitor of
I step into the circle
of your befriending
shade, your leaves
tremulous to stillness
and to sighs like those
who kneel alone
in houses of prayer.
When I go from here,
as reluctant as they,
I bring away
“Where are the love poems, please?” The woman who asked held my book in her hands. Earlier, during the poetry reading, I had mentioned that my book—for sale there on a corner table in the church basement—had a few love poems I had written for Raymond.
The all-female audience, women mostly my age or older, was delightful, most appreciative that I had said yes on short notice after it became clear that the speaker they had originally scheduled could not be there. (Hadn’t they known I would jump at the chance, over the moon at being invited?) Now, following a lovely salad supper and my little program, I was enjoying—no, basking in—the gracious things ordinarily said to a speaker afterward. Then came this wonderful question, “Tell me, please, where are the love poems?”
Sometimes we do not care to read about flowers, or cats, or theological ideas. But almost always we will want to know about love.
Here is a love poem I wrote for Raymond, with the unlikely title, “The Carport.” It tells of one of the many negotiations that couples engage in all the time.
It was not on my list of needed improvements,
only his, a roof, basically, for this prized
antique car. Although I could no longer view
our pasture from the kitchen window,
I saw it pleased him greatly, this architectural
monstrosity, and I could get used to it, though
the color does not match the house.
That was then, a week ago. This is now.
Now in the middle of the night I have come
to close the kitchen window, my feet wet
from where already it has rained in.
What’s this? a new sound,
drumbeats on that metal roof, thunderous,
fine percussion. Flashes of rained-upon
cottonwood leaves offer their applause
while next to our house a 1951 Chevrolet
is sleeping through everything.