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Page 65

The cricks and dodges of branches
(slow motion wriggling to compete for light,
like sea gulls maneuvering for tossed chunks
of bread) make us think of branches
as eely, moving every which way, undulant;

so it is a surprise to see (if you look
closely in winter, no giddy leaf tremors
to distract) how trees move in wind,
the whole superstructure swaying in one piece,

branches as stiffly attuned to the trunk
as, to each other, the taut strips of wood
that frame a kite or the timbers of a house,
the whole tree moving back and forth
in one unchanging brittle design --

and not really "swaying" -- no give to it
relative to itself, no dancer's swing
of hip and ass going one or two ways,
torso another, no, it ain't got that swing;
just neat, stiff bends, like an oriental
diplomat's bow to one who must be accorded
the minimum respect.

Yet there is decisiveness to such rigid motion,
as when a flamenco dancer holds head straight,
every superfluous muscle rigid while the feet
celebrate and protest the floor's solidity,
make it dream it is a river, rippling
with sound (I wish I could say "cantata" --
"pounding out cantatas", why couldn't flamenco
dances be called the word they sound like?)

Each move, each tap -- because all else is
held still -- a small explosion; thus,
the tree's stillness, in motion, is focus:
This is no time for branches to fool around.
A tiny creaking bend too far in any direction
could lead to snap and crash, with, maybe
no one there to hear, the sound of our fall
depending on God's doubtful ear.

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