[from Katie Ford's Deposition, Graywolf, 2002]
When the Trees Are Gone
Fire in the trees splits them
open like body bags. They heap
into piles, tips pointing to the blue mountains bruising
the edge of the valley, pointing to the river just
before it runs into the walled arc of the dam, to where I know
water that far off is useless.
1. What does its task to the trees is true.
2. What pulses so you can make out a body is true.
Fire in the trees splits them open,
the pine-splints clean and stripped downwards
like a photograph of something caught
falling. Is it fire, is it wood
that makes the sound of the mussel I cracked off a rock yesterday?
Only a half-body away, my hand on the rock, wrenching
an armor of white off the stone haystack.
3. A crack and then again a crack of heat, of pine, of a bag opened, of the shell.
4. What makes a sound is true.
5. In me the sound of something repeatedly done to another thing.
Fire in the trees splits them.
I took the shells from the rock, quickly as if the tide
were coming in. My arms were full because of what I did.
6. The tide was out. The tide was out.
7. The sky becomes larger, more true, becomes the shape of the body it lost, hollows everythere.
What will I have to say to the man who tells me,
when we watch the ashes cool acre by acre, the fire
having consumed each arrow-pine standing and fallen,
It was like this the evening my wife died. She filled the whole bed.
I would turn to her, then remember she
was wrapped in a blanket in the front hall. There was no
arch in her spine. The blanket had smoothed over each edge
and curve of her face like a leaf enclosing its knotted buds.
I turned to her again and again until morning, when they came to take
her away. Just wait. Tomorrow
when you wake up, you will see the trees
where they used to be.