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The Patriot Tree


ISSUE:  Summer 2000

And in those days, I was broken from dreams
on hard, white mornings to whip the thickets,

flush a bird or two, and drop
before the shot sizzled by overhead.

Midday, we’d crest a hill
crowned with the Albemarle pippins

King George so loved, it’s said
he took his taxes from the trees—

a cue ball of an apple still growing free
on shaggy limbs no one had pruned for years.

A country then with forgotten groves of gamey fruit—
you’d poke the big blade of a jackknife

below its rusted skin, twist,
and up popped a white chip,

a severed tang, with the sound
of parchment crisply ripping.

It lay on the tongue like hoarfrost,
its aftertaste sour and defiant. . .

Its seeds were hard as flint,
and the grass below as dry as tinder.

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