Clade Song 9

Pity Divides the Soul and Man, Unmans

What do trees have to say
about the paths of disturbance
that befall forests? What agitation
going up in flames or felled by
the sawyer’s chain of angry teeth?
What nuances would they praise?
How deep the soils, how moist?
How much cooler, richer
the earth? And for how long?
Has anyone asked?
Standing among friends
here in the Bitterroot foothills
I'm as divided against myself
as these trees. It's too late
to falter at this border
where the remaining pines
who aspire to live centuries,
aren't a forest, but a crop,
a yield, a fixed, coeval stand
whose value will never surpass
even the span of a man’s life.
But if I didn't know who I was
looking at in the distance—
those charred, barren pillars
standing shoulder to shoulder
in ranks on ridges that roll away
over the horizon in the south
as though purposefully arrayed,
I might think monochromatic
fire scars blurred by distance
some kind of abstract wonder.
I always look away ashamed
whenever my eyes meet the eyes
of the madwoman my age
who beds down every night
on the concrete stoop
of our congressman's office,
and really she isn't a woman
nor am I a man anymore
than these trees are forests.




David Axelrod’s eighth collection of poems, The Open Hand, appeared recently from Lost Horse Press. His second collection of nonfiction, The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence is forthcoming from Oregon State University Press in the spring of 2019. Recent work appears in Aji, Cloudbank, The Singing Bowl, Terrain, and Under a Warm Green Linden. Axelrod also recently wrote the introduction to About People: Photographs by Gert Berliner, which appeared in the summer of 2018 from Arts End Books. Axelrod directs the low residency MFA, as well as the Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program at Eastern Oregon University. In addition, he edits basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts, and serves on the editorial board of Lynx House Press.