Sonnet to a Fallen Tree
The window looks out into the tree that fell
The tree that fell is itself an odd music
Of potential, smashing the neighbors deck, the wind and God
Dragging its bric-à-brac frame to the ground below.
The spinning music of this movement is tuned
To the notes of the empty space where it did not fall.
Where it did not fall is the blank space of the page
The frame of the possible, fear of darker futures
Or maybe of the continued blooming
Of the roots we thought dead. Underneath
They warily spread out until one summer day
You are sitting beneath its leafy frame.
This is how the present announces itself: no new roots.
What you are living is your life.
When I was thirteen, I was driven under the copper
Leaves of Beacon Hill on the way to a poetry reading
In the soon-to-be flooded basement of the large
Public library. Just she and I.
The poet read a poem about the freedom
From being good. A novelist described the horrors of Dunkirk
In a love story likened to the English Patient.
We sat next to an eager MFA student
A student of Gerald Stern whose Odd Mercy
I had let fray in my backpack from overuse.
He said his energy was unrivaled and I was gleeful
Through the rest of the night, even the fast meal
At the cafeteria where a bottled smoothie
Was like the technicolor poem of the mid-90s.
The fountain in the library’s courtyard was beautiful in April.
I clutched the signed books all the way home.
I asked the universe to let me come back,
Give me books, and time to write, and the beauty
Of coffee in small glasses and juices
And a sense of shame for the attachment to things
And the energizing memory
Of something so innocent, illicit,
When more than twice that age
I will think back to the narrow hallways
Of childhood and wonder
If you can close a door behind you
How do all the ghosts keep lulling you to sleep?
Ocean Study, Ogunquit, ME
She unpacks her paintbox,
Pins down the miniature canvas
To her unlikely easel,
Just a few clips attached
To the cover.
She is painting the ocean
In full view
En plein air
In hope that someone will say to her
I must have that one
Or perhaps commerce isn’t going to enter into it.
The tools are so personal and small,
The ocean so vast, even framed by the rocky coast
And the wealthy vacationers under their umbrellas,
That maybe she is only trying to study
The point of contact between rock and water.
She may think the waves tell her why
Each morning she rushes to make coffee
Before the dreams carry over to the newspaper
And breakfast plates
Or perhaps it’s the passers by?
Me, with my daughter and stroller,
Too tall for the handles, hunched over
And sweating while dozens of dragonflies
Dart in the picturesque patches of bee food.
If I were to buy this painting
To remind myself of this ocean,
Of the privilege of promontory
And the money spent on blueberry beer
And over-mayonnaised lobster,
I would hang it by my desk
And write nothing all day.
Tim Duffy is a poet and teacher living in Connecticut. His poems have appeared or will appear shortly in journals such as Longleaf Review, Hawai’i Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Moonchild Mag, Dream Pop Press, Occulum, and The Cortland Review. He is the founder of 8 Poems Journal.