Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Trees The Trees

I read Heather Christle's The Tree The Trees while waiting in line at the DMV. When you go to the DMV it always takes an hour and a half. I don't know why so many people go there unprepared, completely flabbergasted that they have to sit in a room with strangers for an hour and a half. I'm good at waiting. I'm a master of it. If I had the money I would ride a train back and forth from home to Philadelphia, just so I could wait for my destination, no other options or responsibilities hovering in view.

Reading poetry in a very loud place, with screaming children, pop music ringtones and the ever present bingo-esque call for persons in line ahead of you, is surprisingly easy. It's a pleasant bureaucratic white noise. But I find it completely impossible to read verse on a screen. I have no idea what the difference is, but backlighting makes all efforts futile. But I hope you do not share my affliction, so you can enjoy the passages I share.


I am alone     I am a real bear     with a head full of
hazard and light     I live in nature     live with no
friends     and no equity     who needs it     I have
my face     I have my hands     which are as I speak
mauling the air     one time I took a trip     I lay
horizontal on a marvelous raft     I did look up
regard the blank stars     and accept them as holes in
the frame

This past weekend I went hiking, since nature decided to finally stop snowing out of season. Making my way through a nice carpet of bluebells I stopped at a steel gate. I'm not sure what made me stop and stare at it for so long. But eventually I glanced down and at its foot was an almost invisible turtle. He was camouflaged beak to feet with dried dirt. He stayed still for a very long time, and I resigned he was dead. I took a step closer and saw his tail twitch. He was alive, but not by much. Dried up and nearly a hundred yards from water, I guessed he was a victim of the flood that had been through the area a few weeks earlier. I found a wash basin half-buried in dirt, another product of the flood, and placed the limp 25lb snapping turtle inside. I carried him the hundred yards to a river and began washing him off. On closer inspection I realized his shell had been severely cracked. Rotting flesh was beginning to poke through the crevices. He opened his powerful snapping jaws wide, either in pain, fear or aggression. Or all at once. I put him in my car and drove home, ignoring the smell of putrification and river fish. I washed him off again with clean water once home, but it only reveaed more of the damage. It's a Saturday evening, and veterinarian offices won't be open until Monday. With little money in my bank account I'm not sure what help they would be anyway. A call to the local wildlife rescue reveals that their facilities are full. Google tells me that severely damaged turtle shells are irreparable and usually fatal. The only option left. Return him to his home. Perhaps that's where he wanted to be all along. I put him back beside the river and leave him to the wild.


now I understand     you are the owner of a small
piece of time     like anyone else     tonight
everyone's sending me flowers     and I am upset
thinking maybe where I am the earth will collapse
I mean     they are light enough     but gather this
many together     and some are peonies     I can't
understand how they even stand up     babies can't
do what they do     I don't want to be over     any
time in the next hundred years

I'm at the DMV because I bought a new car. New as in new to me. New as in 2008. The paperwork involved seems more painful than what the monthly payments will be. Everyone I talk to seems surprised I'm 27. Maybe it's the barrette in my hair. Or the Hello Kitty perfume. I want a "Virginia Wildflowers" license plate because that seems nice. Although getting the "Pro-choice" one and gauging reactions is tempting. I want a personalized plate as well, to match the flower theme. But so many of them are already taken. MTN-LRL? No. RED-BUD. Nuh-uh. PEONY!? Keep dreaming. I've never hated like-minded strangers so much. PHLOX is available and the DMV website congratulates me on finding it, but I think I know why it's never been taken. LILAC is there as well, but inappropriate for a red car, I feel.


one time this real moon was trying to arrest me     I
was like     I don't even know what I did wrong
has the whole world gone away     why didn't
anyone tell me     never much good at escape     I
thought I'd try complete surrender     dropped every
weapon I had     then the moon was like     listen
you slice of the future      you can cry but you can't
make me change

There's a theme of time and perpetuality in Christle's collection. The perpetuality relates to nature. And time to us. We are mortal. But nature is enduring.


I know where I'm going to die     right here     in my
own honest body     I avoid my body by sleeping
for instance I've just woken up     now here come
my galloping arms     my head the malletless gong
so many days I do not understand     one plows
forward     one gathers     it rains     each month
maintains its own atomic number     a year does not
have a skeleton     it has an uncracked egg     I have
to eat it     I have to get married     my friend the
golden onslaught married stuff in bloom


           now I'm going to talk about the future
of my peer group     the actual future     when I turn
into a human     and have to take vacations to
weep into myself

A sincere and fervent desire to write "to weep into myself" in the "Comments" section of an absence report form.


the thing is     you can't send it back     so     today
I'll accomplish a lot     I will compare my head      to
an eight by twelve glossy photo     of a man on a
fabulous jet-ski     what I see right away is the noise
we both have that in common     I'd like to jet-ski
straight out of this life

My number, F-204, is finally selected for bingo. I go the desk, lay out my folder containing the car's title, a completed VSA-17A, SUT-1, VSA-5, VSA-14, and check for $342.75, precalculated based on the 3% tax on the car, $10 titling fee, and cost of registration for one year. We only need the title and check, she says. Okay, I say. What do you do for a living, she asks. I work in a library. Oh, she says. I figured it was something like that. I admire your presentation and organization skills. Thanks, I tell her.

I finish the transaction and walk out with plain tags. I was thinking about the turtle and forgot to ask for the wildflower ones.

Heather Christle's The Tree The Trees is available at Octopus Books.

60 pages
4,885 pages / 20,000 page goal

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