Birch

Michael Spence Click to read more...

spenceI spent a hitch as a junior naval officer aboard the aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), a vessel since decommissioned.  (Thus I have small fear I’ll be recalled to active duty aboard it.)  I then drove public-transit buses in the Seattle area for thirty years, a job I’ve now been retired from for six months.  Poems of mine have appeared recently in The Hudson Review, The North American Review, The Sewanee Review, Measure and The Southern Review.  My fourth book, The Bus Driver’s Threnody, is available from Truman State University Press and my fifth, Umbilical, is forthcoming from St. Augustine’s Press.  I was awarded a 2014 Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust of Washington State.

–for Sharon

I think I now know
     Why the birch will split the thin
     Layer of its skin again
And again but rarely show

The darker wood at its core.
     Although the bark peels
     Back, it won’t reveal
Anything more

Than another papery scroll
     Of white.  Maybe the wind
     Believes the tree has sinned
Against it by failing to hold

The song of its travels.  The streaks
     On this bark—brown and sparse—
     Are like a sort of Morse
That can’t transcribe the peaks

Of snow and races of rivers
     The gusts have swept across.
     But still the birch is the voice
The wind speaks in when it shivers

The flaps of bark like torn
     Sheet music.  No matter
     How it claws at the tatters,
The wind can’t change the score.
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Discussion

One Response to Birch

  1. Steve Kronen says:

    Lovely and smart and wonderfully executed.

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