The Trees

For Dr. Cathy Sepko


She saw the light first as a little girl

In the hard knuckle granite of West Virginia –

A distant fire in a snowy wood

Filled with the paddings of foxes,

Crickets in the indigo dusk.

 

She learned to read the braille of wood bark

Leading toward that flame,

The rust of sky heavy on the trees.

 

Can you hear them? she would call to us,

Can you hear the songs of old?

The wide winds of rhythm,

The open mouth of the moon

Cooing along the quiet river?

 

She taught us in the forest

To feel the poems in the pines,

To dig our teeth deep into the dirt to taste the earth.

 

She taught the rocks to rhyme,

Pressed a shard of coal into the stone

To carve her spot in time.

 

And now, she sits on a smooth stump before the fire

Surrounded by the faces of a generation,

Ten thousand family trees

Singing softly in the starlight, leaning in to listen

As she warms her tired feet.

Students

A poem to my students…


I wonder if it’s a sonnet,

The poem of your life,

As I hear your shoes squeak their stanzas across the floor to your desk

And you click your blue mechanical pencil

Twice to take a quiz.

 

For I happened to notice two index cards,

Like a light pink couplet,

Tucked beneath the tidy layers of your notebook

As you closed your eyes, breathed, reassured yourself

Of what you knew and filled your name at the top.

 

Or do you live and breathe in music,

All elbows and gym bags, your fingers

Twitching steadily the edges of your sweatshirt?

Perhaps your life is a lyric, a rhythm

Kept in meter by the beat of basketballs,

Or the wild and fearless drummings of your

Feet along the track?

 

Or you, there in the far row,

Do you see the world in free verse?

Eyes bright from gazing through kaleidoscopes,

Bending the sky around your ballpoint pen?

From here I see your frenzied scribbling in that beat-up journal,

The back of your homework, the length of your arm,

Scrambling to seize your swelling thoughts,

Your echoing afterthoughts,

Your madcap fever of creativity.

 

And I bet hers is a ballad, a song,

Her eyes telling the fear in the horizons,

Dreaming of afternoon, of evening,

Of the time she’ll spend with her father

Before his illness takes a turn.

 

Whatever they are,

These poems in your mouths, your hands, your smiles,

They somehow fit each one of you, like shadows

Filled with beauty and, ironically,

With light.

 

And when I am old,

Beyond the reach of my podium,

My pen, my worn and dog-eared Hamlet,

I will see you all,

Again and again and again,

As young as autumn leaves

Reddening, then leaping

Into the constant winds of change.