Two Poems by Robert Knox

The Leaf Washers

“The plants eat light.” From Michael Pollan’s “How Smart are Plants?” in the New Yorker

 

Yesterday we washed the leaves

Today they salute us

Reaching out, waving their storybook lives

Like the pages of a book

Fluttering long fingers

Beckoning, or speaking the gesture language

Heavier creatures invent upon their fingers

They pulse their high wire stories through the air waves

 

The leaves live in the air, the air is home, shelter, food for them

The current of breath that fills my senses

Orders time for the dance of the hours

The leaves make time for us, filtering the world

The minutes emerge from pores and make sense for us,

Slow as the waves of the world

They save the voices of the children

They lie still before the whine of the engines

To still them is to deafen the magic

They droop like ears silenced by the humdrum of machines

They turn the salutes of the hours into triumphs of air

They sluice and filter the music of the world

They are the companionate senses of the wild green earth,

A bowering neighbor,

A grotto of tuned and tasted pleasure, pre-digested by fertility,

A porous protection, a second self

They guide the sun to my temple

I am—we are—within the village of the world,

Inside temples among the jungled cities

The leaves salute our fellow travelers in their journeys through the sky

As friends, superiors in life, elders, survivors of earlier days

They know where they situate is all the world

They mediate the base of things, the fundamentals,

Molecules, waves, atoms, energy-matter—the rain in Piccadilly,

The fountains of Beirut, the voices of the stars

 

 

 

As A Tree

 

 

Tannish tassels smudging the plants,

bedecking leaves like off-color tinsel,

a plague of dust tarnishing the green.

Mannish flowers these, gifts of the oak,

a thing made all of secrets.

You never see it sleep, or shout, or breathe, or blow, or natter

or rumble, or do anything.

The wind “does.” The birds leap and shout.

Leaves appear. Branches fall.

Catkins parachute softly in the spring,

a daring raid behind enemy lines; success assured by numbers.

The oak is ever that which is, not that which shows

in its becoming.

It is always being a tree.

Surely we all have heard this moralized explanation of “giving”—

these theatrically magical seeds

these time-lapse photographs of “stages”:

the seedling with the corny hat, a sproutling, a slender sapling (like a boy with a bat),

branches that shoot outward like crosses

held against the terrors of a world of fire, seething winds, clinging ice,

quaking thunder, shaking earth.

Time passes through the tree.

It perseveres in thereness, wise in the way of treeing.

We encounter, witness, regard, visit,

become what we will, in our endless evolutions.

The oak always was what it will be

whenever I behold it:  then is now.

 

 

 

 

Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet and fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Suosso’s Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in Every Day Poet, Off The Coast, Houseboat, Yellow Chair Review and other journals. His chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty (Finishing Line Press) was published in May 2017.

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