One Tree

Philip Metres
They wanted to tear down the tulip tree, our neighbors, last year. It throws a shadow over their vegetable patch, the only tree in our backyard. We said no. Now they’ve hired someone to chainsaw an arm—the crux on our side of the fence—and my wife, in tousled hair and morning sweat, marches to stop the carnage, mid-limb. It reminds her of her childhood home, a shady place to hide. She recites her litany of no, returns. Minutes later, the neighbors emerge. The worker points to our unblinded window. I want to say, it’s not me, slide out of view behind a wall of cupboards, ominous breakfast table, steam of tea, our two young daughters now alone. I want no trouble. Must I fight for my wife’s desire for yellow blooms when my neighbors’ tomatoes will stunt and blight in shade? Always the same story: two people, one tree, not enough land or light or love. Like the baby brought to Solomon, someone must give. Dear neighbor, it’s not me. Bloom-shadowed, light-deprived, they lower the chainsaw again.

 

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Photo:
Heidi M. Rolf

Philip Metres is the author of ten books, including Shrapnel Maps(2020), The Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and Resistance(2018), Pictures at an Exhibition(2016), Sand Opera(2015), and I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (2015). His work has garnered a Lannan fellowship, two NEAs, six Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Hunt Prize, the Adrienne Rich Award, three Arab American Book Awards, the Watson Fellowship, the Lyric Poetry Prize, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. Metres has been called “one of the essential poets of our time,” whose work is “beautiful, powerful, magnetically original.” His poems have been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Polish, Russian, and Tamil. He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University, and lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

“This is a breathtaking collection, unrivaled in scope or execution, fit to dwell among the great collections of our time… [W]hat sets Shrapnel Maps apart from many of its contemporaries is its insistence on reaching for the light, in reaching for unity, in reaching for new definitions of peace and new definitions of a sustainable joy.”
Cleveland Review of Books

“Metres has emerged as one of the leading Catholic poet-activists. A riveting, ambitious book.”
The Millions

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