Ad Astra + Graftings

Robbie Gamble

Ad Astra

Fresh fox scat on the driveway    yet again
extrusions of purple berry mush strewn through

with bitty rodent bones   You’d think he owned
the place    and he does in deed if not on paper

skulking the swale behind the wellhead
resplendent in his rustiness     last rays before

dusk     You and I so difficult    dear reader
this house we’re building    words    your moods

the tick of seasons    and there’s a lyric trick
I often lean into    just about now    launching

the frame of reference skyward    a stratospheric
swoop    so we now gaze down on miniscule

floodplains   scattered cityglows    pulling away
from earth’s dark curve against a fling of stars

But no    this is just more shit on the drive    waiting
to get run over by the Subaru    or dissolve under

cold rain    How could a compassionate heart
swell to encompass     suffering    in all its spasms

landslides    tumors    shrapnel    psychoses
I think I’m losing track of you    me    Thou

Listen!    I’m breathing shallow in the dark
of my den    which is a room    not a burrow

under a phosphorescent vault    which is not
a constraint    for the hunter    or the haunted


We took saws to the crowns of a row
of our trees, because our neighbor lost
his orchard to an onslaught of root-voracious
voles. His grief spilled to our side of the hill
and what could we do but offer up fresh limb-
stumps as havens for his refugee cuttings,
nobly-named scions culled from the genealogy
of apple: Baldwin, Dabinett, Pitmaston
Pineapple, Roxbury Russet. He schooled us
through ancient maneuvers of grafting: deft
knife-swipes to mark and lift tongues of bark
from trunkwood, cuttings beveled smooth
to slip into the pocket-wounds so cambium
aligns with cambium; tissues kissing
in the rising sap to meld and grow to one
healthy hybrid limb. This graftwork
is violent, amputations littering the field
under a cold indifferent drizzle, each tree
hunched and pathetic, brandishing one
solitary nurse branch spared to gather
this season’s solar charge for healing.
Far elsewhere, while we hacked and flensed,
shells rained down, seas crept up, our rights
continued to erode. I could say futility
gloomed across that orchard dusk, but
I would be wrong, for apple trees play
a long game of generosity. Wound my limbs,
they gesture, and in three years hence I will
feed you. Then, Crush my fruit, and drink.
Autumns come, governance dissolves,
and the harvest begins as I coolly tooth
through taut skin into a tart mouthscape.

Robbie Gamble (he/him) is the author of A Can of Pinto Beans (Lily Poetry Review Press, 2022). His poems have appeared in Salamander, LunchTicket, Whale Road Review, Rust + Moth, and The Sun. He divides his time between Boston and Vermont.

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