Virginia Smith


A tree downed by a storm
                 lies on its side for years,

half dead, the other still
                 leafing out each spring,

and already it is something
                 other than a tree -- my daughter

examines snapped rootlets
                 strung with tiny mushrooms

and shudders while she traces
                 from a distance each gray branch

that twines the new green.
                 It fell the year we discovered

a suicide here and pulled him
                 out of his locked, running car

and held his head to pick
                 broken glass from his hair

while waiting for the ambulance,
                 which came late, without lights

or sirens, and to fill the silence
                 I told him everything I knew

about dying and then not --
                 of course, for all his flutter and

startles, I might have been
                 talking to a corpse not yet aware

it was at the end of experience.
                 I want to share and not say

all the details that still litter
                 this shoulder, to remember how

intimate death is, how we were
                 not invited into his but stumbled

on it by chance, the tree still up-
                 right and only itself, my daughter

already stepping back -- apart, appalled.

Virginia Smith's poems appear most recently, or are forthcoming, in 2River View, Denver Quarterly, The Jet Fuel Review, Moria, and Weave.

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