Snapshot of an Orchard in Port Angeles
(for Mrs Georgia Bond and Stanley Kunitz)
” The woman worked all her youth on Lost Mountain
marking trees to be cut,
and gave birth to five children.
Now, old and a widow, she takes care
of her orchard,
When her daughter brought the poet from Provincetown to visit,
the old woman was proud to show him
her oldest tree : pinus aristata- the one never marked
for cutting- that is, the deathless one- she added.
The poet doubted this; ‘I am afraid you are mistaken.
The oldest tree in the world is metasequoia
glyptostroboides- (also known as the Dawn Redwood)
and it has more lives to live. Well, what do you think?
Which one of us is right, madam?’
She answered: ‘A man lives as long as his life, mister,
but a poet lives as long as your tree with a strange name.’
He liked her answer so much that on her birthday
he sent by telegram to a nursery, then by truck
to her doorstep, his own tree, the Dawn Redwood,
and a card : ‘May this tree grow near yours.
Let their shadows annul each other reciprocally
so in your orchard
light will grow free forever’. “
I have mentioned Liliana Ursu’s book The Sky Behind the Forest before, it is translated by Tess Gallagher and Adam Sorkin. Bloodaxe 1997.