My Father Escapes Counsel on Trees and Wine

Somewhere between the sleet that comes
too early each year and the bleak wine
you make from rotting lingonberries,
we’ll trim what was fiercely luminous last
summer – those branches with their hard fists
of failed apples leaning on the camper roof.

Dad, we’ve cut trees like this on far
too many lawns. We’ll go tipsy
across the yard now to find them
wintered thin like bony fingers of aged
widows. Seasons have a theory
to explain my warning: wine-ratcheted
spirits won’t buoy our hands when
hours run canted through shaky ladders.

Just turning 85, I couldn’t let you climb
those steps – old and trying to be brave
to prove something that needed
no bearing out when branches
will nearly sever themselves, buckling
to earth under their own dead weight.

At night, exhausted, the ripsaw’s grip
still stings my palms for limbs I felled
that tell us nothing is flawless or final.
But if trees, like men, come warped
by wind, nightingales will sing beneath
our sleep, as if throwing us their laughter
years after it rose through the trees.

Jeffrey Alfier is a 2009 Pushcart prize nominee. His poems have appeared in The Cape Rock, Iron Horse Literary Review and Permafrost, with work forthcoming in Chiron Review. His chapbooks are Strangers Within the Gate (2005) and Offloading the Wounded (2010), and he serves as co-editor of San Pedro River Review

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761