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Tulip Trees

ISSUE:  Autumn 1980

It is lovely
to listen to Chopin etudes
while a heavy wet snow
falls unexpectedly
throughout a morning in early spring.
When one of us speaks of clearing tulip trees
from a forest at the age of twelve,
the probability
that lightning will strike an object close at hand
increases sevenfold.

Only one of us senses the danger;
he is too shy to speak.

Lightning does not strike,
windows do not shatter,
the snow continues its unexpected fall;
but the face on the black marble clock explodes
much as the door to the museum gift shop exploded,
with no warning or explanation,
a minute before we arrived.

Once again
the deity has spoken
in a way that is painfully oblique.

And nothing’s changed;
we are still likely to reach for the door
that opens onto a glittering array
of meaningless paradoxes.

The possibility remains
that on a summer afternoon,
tired and very hot,
we will find shelter
at a plaza of questionable value.
We will sit down beside its fountain
and be unable to get up.


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