A Stand of Swamp Maples in Purcellville, Virginia

Brian Brodeur Click to read more...

bbrodeur-242Brian Brodeur is the author of the poetry collections Natural Causes (Autumn House Press 2012), Other Latitudes (University of Akron Press 2008), and the chapbook So the Night Cannot Go on Without Us (WECS Press 2007). New poems and interviews are forthcoming in AWP Writers Chronicle and The Southern Review. Brian curates the blog “How a Poem Happens,” an online anthology of over 150 interviews with poets. He lives with his wife in Cincinnati where he is a George Elliston Fellow in Poetry in the PhD in English and Comparative Literature program at University of Cincinnati.

Click to hear Brian Brodeur read “A Stand of Swamp Maples in Purcellville, Virginia”

From the window you can see which trees I mean.
I used to have a view for twenty acres
of pine and poplar woods, a cattle pasture
where I’d see mother foxes with their kits.

Now, only these dozen trees divide me
from townhouses sprouting from the hills.
Rotten to the root, they won’t survive,
their branches webbed with fat silk-moth cocoons.

When I called Pro Arbor Tree Service in Reston,
an agent asked to take my information
and told me he could send a crew next Tuesday.
I hung up without leaving my number.

I’m glad I thought of you and glad you came.
With my bursitis, I can’t do much these days.
Strong enough last week to tug the pullcord
of my saw, I walked across the woodyard,

and breathed the blue fumes the chainsaw belched,
listening to it shriek as I touched the teeth
to the sickliest tree.  I had to stop myself.
I wasn’t up to it.  But now you’re here.

Take the woodshed keys.  The saw’s gassed up.
I see you brought your old Dodge Power Wagon.
Haul all the wood you need.  I don’t want money.
Just leave a quarter cord behind for me.

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Discussion

2 Responses to A Stand of Swamp Maples in Purcellville, Virginia

  1. Amanda Newton says:

    The melancholy tone of this poem sparks feelings of wistfulness and reminiscence towards an older age of green trees and open fields. Brodeur’s work successfully creates an intimate encounter with development and the loss of nature in a progressive world, drawing the reader into his own pain. The trees must come down despite the narrator’s resistance to the townhouse development, and I can feel the distraught with which he exacerbates the ugliness of a nature-less world.

  2. ferrise20 says:

    I appreciate Bodeur’s acknowledgment of the emotional effects of environmental degradation. Development for human communities often shows a thoughtless disregard for the natural state of the world. There’s a sense of helpless desperation when he says, “Now, only these dozen trees divide me / from townhouses sprouting from the hills.” At the end, Bodeur’s realization feels as if it’s too late to change what has been done. He wants to protect himself from the depression of urbanization and barren land, but he can’t. He “used to have a view for twenty acres,” yet now just a measly “stand of swamp maples” incites his sad nostalgia.

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