by Ellen Davis
Kentucky coffee tree, false cypress—
I wanted a poem made only
of names, of the gorgeous
ridiculous names of young trees
Mike planted in the arboretum.
“It’s a mishmash,” Dad says
of verbena and yucca, the lily pad
with its occasional frog pond sound,
its wooden swan gauche in this brief
refuge. The only name I need
is the redbud or Judas Tree,
the tree Aunt Bette planted
in memory of my brother—
“He was color-blind, you know.
The redbud was one of the few
he could see.” With pink
valentine leaves in spring and maroon
buds as flowers all summer, it is
recognizable. Tall, an oval shape
against the tool shed, it stands apart
from the engaging chaos,
the pagoda dogwood, the intemperate
dragonfly streaking the air with turquoise
as it skims the pond. That the tree
is my brother’s emblem is
too easy to say, yet
the claim gets close to true
on this flickering June day—
a robin perching briefly
on its way to who knows where.
Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Davis.