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The Sound of Branches Cut

ISSUE:  Autumn 1985

I’m out pruning today, 20 pounds of girl-child
Lounging behind me in a red backpack
And the day pale but warm for February.
Crows call and arc across the blue between treetops.
I’m grateful the birds are so big and speak loudly
So she can follow my finger to them,
Get their shape and name planted among
The new articulations of her mind.

But she’s more impressed by my long-handled pruners.
She squeals as I snap off a pine sapling
And it slumps to the dry leaves.
I was only going to tame a honeysuckle by the house—
Now we’re at the edge of the forest
Cutting everything that strikes me as
Redundant, superfluous, ugly, or just in the way.
It’s addicting.

And I know it has something to do
With the cluster of little tragedies
In the hospital of my livelihood
Last night.

Snap off a branch that brushes my head,
Slice through suckers on a dogwood trunk,
Everywhere I look there is more and more.
Anna plays with my ear.
Her fingernails bite like thorns.
I cut another pine and hear the way
Her brief cry follows the slice
As if giving the wood a tongue.
I snip again.
The same.

From treetops down the hill
The crows fly back.
I drop the pruners, point,
They cut across, so big and soaring,
Then gone.
And I do not say how the pale blue nothing
They leave behind
Appalls me.


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