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Poetry: From the March/April 2009 issue | See all poetry



Be Here First

I don’t know my trees but I know my trees.
Their angling for what has spurned them;
their spitting and drooling, the battered

crocuses at their feet. We share the roofline,
the cesspool, I’m responsible for all that salt.
From my stone stoop I watch the lilac’s sun-

starved horizontal heroics, the still-naked
redbud shrugging off bitty unlit lights.
Neglect leans back on the lawn chair.

Must we dislike ourselves to change? 
Sick of every other part of me, I approve
my hand slobbered by the horse’s jawing

a hacked apple. I say fear is behind our
everything. Or brazenness, which is just
a jacket fear puts on. The mare’s sudden

stillness says look: fox. The world as ever
offering now distraction, now danger.
But no. How much I owe the trees, the hissing

raccoon outsmarting my heart. The shed
moving towards ruin in its own slow time.
There’s something sprouting on the kitchen

table that’s not supposed to. Everything
eager, rude and alive. Not just the knotweed
but the crows’ hideous vowels; buds blasted

open or whipped young off the tree. Take your
pick: the ridge hurtling for the last rag of snow
or simply lifting off with the first smack of dawn.

- Ellen Doré Watson

Director of the Poetry Center at Smith College and poetry editor of The Massachusetts Review, Ellen Doré Watson is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, This Sharpening, from Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, and The New Yorker.

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