Smoke Tree

Donald Platt Click to


Donald Platt’s fifth book of poems, Tornadoesque, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.  His sixth, Man Praying, will appear in 2017.  .  His fourth book, Dirt Angels, was published in 2009 by New Issues Press.  In 2011 he was awarded a second fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a third Pushcart Prize.  His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Salmagundi, Prairie SchoonerNotre Dame ReviewCrazyhorse, Ecotone, Black Warrior Review, Seneca Review, Southern Review and Best American Poetry, 2015.  He is a professor of English and teaches in the MFA program at Purdue University.

		           It’s raining again,
and Lucy, my daughter home from college for the summer,
		               is wearing her dead

grandmother’s powder blue raincoat.  I use the yellow-handled
from the tackle box of tools my dead father-in-law gave me

		              as a wedding gift
to open a gallon of paint.  In my dead father’s bible
		              with its spine cracked

I find Christ’s words, “Let the dead bury their dead:
		              but go thou  
and preach the kingdom of God.”  I eat oatmeal cooked with raisins

		              and diced Gala apples
from a clear glass bowl, the same my dead mother-in-law
		              once ate from.

The dead are gone, but they remain with us, shelter, aid,
and feed us.  They are as the smoke tree’s billowing filaments, ghostly

		              cotton candy, pink smoke
from the underground fire now hidden from us among the million
		              roots that still clutch

the dirt.  Go thou and preach the sunlight upon smoke blossoms.
		              The wind
shakes them.  They stay with us for this short season, but shall return

		              each year
more abundantly than the last.  The cars downshift, go slow
		              past the blooming 

smoke tree on Rainbow Drive, side street whose myriad cracks have been filled
		              with lines and loops
of black tar, erratic freehand spelling out grace and wonder

		              in indecipherable
ideograms that I must learn before I can begin to speak 
		              again with the living.