Polaroid of a Willow Tree

Sun-held in a picture taken
by a child’s hand, the crooked tree
leaning into a long-dead wind
so much still from that shaken
air travels on. I’d forgotten memory
vanishes, that cellular tithe:
the way the bones of real things
crumble in remembering hands and get free

for good. How long alive
was that tree, how long standing
there, gripping the ravine edge
before we appeared and started to survive

in the ways prepared, pretending
everything would turn out,
get better, we’d grow stronger, feel right
the real world notwithstanding.

That’s always the taunt looking back, the shout
at the ones who left without warning; seeing
as those early visions were not in the offing,
they might have said what it was all about.

Now we’re simply standing ground, being
vigilant, shucking the childish faith
that makes our eyes
glance at things twice seen

and name them bough and stem and leaf.
That’s the willow in the child’s lens,
and why it seems much more a tree
than trees I know now. Beneath

the Polaroid willow are roots, but then
I suspected more, was not troubled by “the true”:
it was all trees and all time, a purview undistressed
by memory and experience. Never again.

Poem by Michael Redhill



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