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Tumey's List

by Paul Christley Tumey

Tonight, home from the gleaming
new shopping center, I am thinking of the poem
the one I didn't write
about that stand of trees
It would have been a lot better
than this, less artifice,
truer to a tree than to a tree missed
I would have said (I remember
walking home to your brown arms
late one night through them) the tall pinetops
were green chandeliers
The woods the most
haunted of mansions
where every night
the wind bands played to thousands of dancing
branches
I would have said
we were all millionaires

The trees are gone now
The few acres I would shortcut
to work through to be in the woods
before I was in the weeds
They saved me but I could not save them
I swear I saw hobbits
and leprechauns in the gathering dusk
And once I made love to you
in the moonlight your back against
the strong thighs of a magnolia
They saved me

The town started ten blocks away
a hundred years ago, so
it's a confound progress did not commence sooner
I think the stand was an asset
in the erect tent portfolio of a banker tacit
He must have sold it for money
I cannot see anything else to be gained

In the early days of the construction
the magnificent old trees
there through the wars, the yellow fever, the fires, more wars, they
fell to obscene destruction
it took so little time
cars prowling like guards
on the border roads struck the fleeing victims, the ones
who squeezed under wire fences
and ran for their lives
Here's Tumey's List:
a brown field rabbit
the dream of a boy sleeping
in the arms of mother and father,
a box
turtle, a turquiose
lizard, a packet
of love letters and a pregnant
opossum, some rats
and a part of me

I saw them all go
as the forest floor melted with no hesitation
into concrete lit with a halogen glow
and rooted family split into visitations

I wish I would have written beauty
instead of this sad commencement of grace
I miss walking through you,
the shadows and light of my heart's trace

This poem is too much like our new shopping center
Tonight I browsed in FROZEN FOODS
where once the sap-ended pine needles made a bed
for this lazy fool to dream
The squirrels would have loved
aisle seven, SNACKS AND NUTS
I think I see the stream running
through FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
It's beautiful, you would have laughed --

People don't understand

They are buying dinner and maybe lunch
and perhaps cookies for the kids
and the man weeping in CLEANING PRODUCTS
is a weirdo what is he doing? looks like
he's stretching to pick swaying summer wildflowers
that are out of reach

-1987/2010 - Tallahassee/Seattle

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