An Arbor - Poem by Linda Gregerson
The world's a world of trouble, your mother must
have told you
that. Poison leaks into the basements
and tedium into the schools. The oak
is going the way
of the elm in the upper Midwest—my cousin
earns a living by taking the dead ones
And Jason's alive yet, the fair-
haired child, his metal crib next
to my daughter's.
Jason is nearly one year old but last
saw light five months ago and won't
see light again.
Leaf against leaf without malice
the manifold species of murmuring
harm. No harm intended, there never is.
inadequate software gets the reference librarian
fired. The maintenance crew turns off power one
and Monday the lab is a morgue: fifty-four
rabbits and seventeen months of research.
as ignorance does and always
holds high office.
Jason had the misfortune to suffer misfortune
of July. July's the month of hospital ro-
tations; on holiday weekends the venerable
So when Jason lay blue and inert on the table
and couldn't be made to breathe for three-and-a-
the staff were too green to let him go.
The household gods have abandoned us to the gods
prudence and suburban sprawl. The curve
of new tarmac, the municipal pool,
the sky at work
on the pock-marked river, fatuous sky,
the park where idling cars, mere yards
from the slide
and the swingset, deal beautiful oblivion in nickel
bags: the admitting room and its stately drive,
of the town's best view.
And what's to become of the three-year-old brother?
When Jason was found
face down near the dogdish—it takes
just a cupful of water to drown—
his brother stood still
in the corner and said he was hungry
and said that it wasn't his fault.
The fault's in nature, who will
without system or explanation
havoc of little mistakes. A natural
mistake, the transient ill will we define
as the normal
and trust to be inconsequent,
by nature's own abundance soon absorbed.
Oak wilt, it's called, the new disease.
Like any such
contagion—hypocrisy in the conference room,
flattery in the hall—it works its mischief mostly
The men on the links haven't noticed
yet. Their form is good. They're par.
The woman who's
prospered from hating ideas loves causes
instead. A little shade, a little firewood.
a stand of oak on which my father's
earthly joy depends. We're slow
to cut our losses.
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