Ann Neuser Lederer The 2River View, 6.1 (Fall 2001)

Bits of Advice

From afar, before budding,
the trees’ bones looked identical.

Fingering the nubs,
the expert told a better story.

Too late, he said, for the Wild Cherry,
a messy one anyway,
creature of birds spitting stones
from atop old fences.

Then, he taught the sweet names
of others: Hickory, Sugar Maple, Mulberry,
and the sources of their stresses.

For days I peered upwards,
eyes opened to sights
I had never noticed:
Topping, splitting, improper pruning
by electric company workers,
and other horrors.

I saw similarities everywhere:
Pulling back blankets,
counting every rib....
(How the skin, thin as a handkerchief,
rolls over the bones....)
Tenderly, tenderly, reaching
into a bedsore the exact size of a fist.
Glimpsing into the body’s caverns,
sinews and scaffolds.

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2River All is well.