The tragic sensibility of trees

From the stillness on the winter land I knew
That she would not be mine.
I knew it from the curling smoke,
From the coppery sun on the marsh that day,
From the rush of geese rising from the lake,
From the rowans abandoned in the snow.

The rim of trees along the shore, blushing green
When we reached this place in spring,
Our dripping paddles the only sound;

The rim of trees, deep green when we made love
On the deep bed of needles in the copse of pine
Atop a cliff so high it might have been
The one from which Magua the Mohican fell;

The rim of trees, aflame,
When from the canoe we imagined where
We’d set our house, how broad to make the hearth,
How many rooms for the children who would come;

The rim of trees, black and dripping, cold and still,
When I looked into that face and knew
The die was cast: She would not be mine.
I saw the silent grief.

I held her through the woolly sweater
On which a ring of happy snowmen danced across her chest:
In her eyes, the numbed heart’s decision,
Desire trumped by duty, love forgone,
The hearth no more a plan: a memory,
The doors closed on the children’s rooms.

She gazes now on the same still land,
Tugs off the sweater with its smiling snowmen,
Pokes at the fire before which her husband sleeps.
A curl of smoke, a flight of geese.

The rim of trees speaks now again,
Whispers as if in solace
That another thing of beauty—
Not she, not a woman—
Will come to take her place: a stream of beauty,
Spirit from matter like the lake’s mist at dawn
Mingling with the rushes,
Beauty from dross, gem from rock:
Emerald, lapis, garnet, gold—

A spring of beauty gushing through the rift she cleft,
The gap that opened when she taught me trust,
When she asked me in to drink her love.