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Catkins


April 8th out my upstairs window.
The white oak is reaching miniature hands toward me,
toward everyone, a big sphere of little hands,
each holding a sprig of seaweed
from the earth-ocean they rise, faceless, out of.
Catkins be their name.

They are not seeds. Acorns are the seeds
of these strong-standing, reach-down-deep elders.
The catkin parsley they hold
has some other purpose for their continuing.
This foam of exuberance, extrabubbly in the greenery,
are male flowers of hopeless innumerability,
clumps of alphabet on the ground.

Catkins are strands of pollen.
The females they are looking for are microscopic,
high up and pollinated by the wind.

Why some language is so beautiful it makes us cry
we do not know, just that we want to hear it again.

Catkin beget acorn beget oak. It is true.

Catkin begat acorn begat oak.

But sometimes the sequence is brokenó
too much rain, too damp for too long,
so there are very few acorns in the fall,
and even fewer oak trees
beginning to grow next spring.

There is a waiting we can learn from trees,
something deeper than patience. They keep
our soul's perfume in the resin and in the grain
of their spelling, in their spilling this scattered
expensiveness. Let me stay in love
with such becoming, the sounds we hear and make,
as we cry out to give the night
something kin to catkins,
or maybe more like peepers
that come singing out of low places
in late March, their notes and alphabet,
peepers and catkins in syncopation,
to remind us how another round
will come that never was.


Coleman Barks

The Georgia Review

Fall 2012


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