Post Road Magazine #9

Elm & Cancer by Joanna Rawson

We don't mean to belabor the stump.
Or talk any more now about our vows, our frantic doing of something,
anything. There have been enough appointments canceled,
and invitations declined on such short notice.
The workers arrived early with the machine, that's all.
Knock, knock.

No and no again to outings, to any visitations.
Weeks go by unaccounted and still undone after dark falls.
Here goes the image that suggests inconsolability:
There is a tree in it, an elm.
The sky threatens to answer a prayer but then won't.
It is not exactly our own minds we go out of.

Shade-giving and with such extravagant bark.
Someone swears that even if, even then—it wasn't ready.
All winter the roots seemed to feed into a dumb throb.
It hums there, outside the window, in ways you'd never do anything about
in words. Something. Anything.

The team was on it at once, already sweating.
They brought it down in two hours: crown, canopy, trunk, felled.
I could go on, though just thinking makes the landscape hurt,
including the wild ivy that's lost its shade.
The glare upon this garden blinds, and there seems to be
nothing now between us and that terrible sun. •

Joanna Rawson is the author of the book Quarry (Pitt Poetry Series), which won the Associated Writing Programs award for poetry, and co-author of the story collection Twelve Branches (Coffee House Press). She lives in Minneapolis.

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