Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum

by Michael Waters
Waters. Parthenopi. Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum
How often the names of trees consoled me, how I would repeat to myself green ash while the marriage smoldered in the not-talking, red maple when the less-than-tenderness flashed, then black gum, black gum as I lay next to you in the not-sleeping, in the not-lovemaking. Those days I tramped the morass of the preserve, ancient ash smudging shadows on stagnant pools, the few wintry souls skulking abandoned wharves. In my notebook I copied plaques screwed to bark, sketching the trunks' scission, a minor Audubon bearing loneliness like a rucksack. And did the trees assume a deeper silence? Did their gravity and burl and centuries-old patience dignify this country, our sorrow? So as I lay there, the roof bursting with invisible branches, the darkness doubling in their shade, the accusations turning truths in the not-loving, green ash, red maple, black gum, I prayed, in the never-been-faithful, in the don't-touch-me, in the can't-bear-it-any-longer, black gum, black gum, black gum.