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Clade Song 13

Landscape: McIntosh Apple Tree in the Back Yard

Every April tent caterpillars would fashion gauzy nests
in clefts between branches and the bronze-toned trunk.
Their un-stoppable chomping song— a language

that ate itself clean as it dwindled peaceful leafage
down to skeletal stems. Dad would retaliate—dousing
their pesky habitats with gasoline, tossing a struck match

to burn away the rampant hunger of those larval bodies.
I felt sorry for them, but it was either mom’s apple pie
or watching these measly creatures squirm

and crackle black as they dropped for an anguished
encore to the grass. Choices need to be made. My brother.
chose the weekly task of manhandling trash bins to the curb.

I chose the chore of mowing the lawn back-forth Saturday
mornings, trampling dew, clippings licked to my footsteps,
blather of blades as I proudly left behind wheel marks

in perfect parallel to the privet hedge. Those days I pursued
every task like the next merit badge for mom to sew
on my boy scout sash in rows and columns of accomplishment.






Grey Held is a recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing and the winner of the 2019 Future Cycle Poetry Book Prize. Three books of his poetry have been published: Two-Star General (BrickRoad Poetry Press, 2012), Spilled Milk(WordPress, 2013), and WORKaDAY (FutureCycle Press, 2019). He offers a weekly online poetry workshop (Poetry Round Table) for professional poets. He is also a literary activist, who through civic involvement connects contemporary poets with wider audiences.