White Ashes

The New Republic

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POEM APRIL 1, 2013

White Ashes

My dentist tells me about his dying white ash trees growing near the power lines.

The blight that pulls apart
            the roots, telling us we aren’t getting any younger.

The tooth, he says, has its own widening rings;
            each line not age but episodes. All tied

together with veins at our center.

I’m always apologizing as tiny utensils

            spread my mouth open. 

            Apologizing for all my shortcomings. 

For time wasted.
            And the tiny lies he must now be discovering.

My dentist says, I’ll give them another summer,
            those trees I planted, that I dug out

                        and trenched when I was twenty years younger.

When my children weren’t yet children. When my wife and I
            listened to the wind howl through our sea

            of cypresses, and like teeth,

            one fell, and like teeth, another—snapped and broken down the middle.

As we talk, I taste blood, bone, and metal.

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