I grew up in Michigan where trees are real trees. You probably know what I mean: oak, maple, birch, and pine trees. They all have strong, symmetrical shapes–specific enough to be cookie cutters.
But here in the southwest, we have the palo verde, sort of a weed on steroids. This is a particularly bedraggled specimen. The outer branches and leaves of the tree are weed-like, fragile, with a few thin limbs over-long and droopy. Nobody would want to make a cookie cutter out of this palo verde, and if they did, nobody would recognize it.
Like the scorpion and the rattlesnake, the palo verde is one of God’s creations. This tree has been on my mind since I first moved to Arizona five years ago.
In this perfectly off-center palo verde tree
the digressions fall away.
Christ’s fourth avatar sleeps in a karated gold pagoda.
The pilgrims search for dust with a metallic taste.
A hummingbird’s snoop into yellow bells
transmutes into the clapper of the so-called miracles.
Well. Miracles or mysterious occurrences,
From this focus, the architecture is the tree,
a holy manger
nesting the saguaro cacti,
offering Eucharist for burros and jackrabbits,
sanctuary for the songbirds.
In my confusion, I read the wrong miracles.
God’s toolbelt begets stained glass
mirrors of beatitude, where incense
smokes through silver filigreed sieves,
fogging the view of the palo verde,
the Ark of the holy secrets.
Thank God toolbelts unbuckle, their great weight
tumbling down to the ground
from which the palo verde grows.
(published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Vol 3, Iss 2)
The “yellow bells” are the spring blossoms, which allow the palo verdes to compete with the fall colors of Michigan. And while they will never be my favorite tree, their delicate fronds and flowers create a lively lace against the sky.