ARS POETICA: PLATANUS RACEMOSA
by Maria Melendez
Here’s amor, clawing the skin of sycamores—
track it by the jagged patches of bare trunk
exposed between pieces of broken bark.
Who should you ask
about the way love picks at the surface puzzle,
crunches away the discernable for the porous
inner wood? How did those “clever natives” know
boiled bark could treat a springtime wheeze?
A little trial and error, sure, but mostly,
the tree asked to be used that way.
We offend the unused
trees when we don’t drink their remedies;
this love metaphor and its host, this sycamore,
are curatives for the loneliness that repeatedly opens up
between ourselves and the Creator; to learn to love,
go to love, its unsolved path on a crooked tree,
and all it has downed or dropped.
Kick the leaves
like parchment on the ground, shock the fat
black beetle with your thick toe,
rattle an inquest he can read, then listen
for what’s asking to be written. I’m no expert,
but the beetle seems to say: breathe out through your skin,
feed off decay, and chew without redress—
Love breaks open the bark to feed itself
on what’s exposed, while the gasping soil is fed
on what is shed. May language be an act of love.
[from Flexible Bones]
* * *
From her listing at the Colorado Poets Center:
Maria Melendez is the author of two collections of poetry from University of Arizona Press:
How Long She’ll Last in This World (2006), and Flexible Bones (2010). She has been
a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Poetry, a two-time Honorable
Mention recipient for the International Latino Book Awards, and a finalist for the
Colorado Book Award. Her essays appear in Ms. Magazine, Sojourns and elsewhere,
and her poetry and essays are widely anthologized, most recently in Colors of Nature:
Culture, Identity & the Natural World. NPR’s American Democracy Project broadcast
several of her essays on arts & activism, and she is a past editor of Pilgrimage, a literary
magazine emphasizing the themes of spirit, witness and place. As an independent
editorial consultant, she helps new and established writers create dynamic manuscripts.