Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Charm Tree

The Charm Tree

By Ricardo M. de Ungria

In memoriam Edith L. Tiempo

The doranta tree outside my window should be dead
but isn’t. Watered from my own neglect
now only by rains, it has since leaned forward
and grown dry and brittle, that one limb the size

of an arm snapped off with ease when a neighbor’s child
grabbed it and hung on for a stretchful swing.
I propped up the one remaining trunk with
a wooden slab near its roots and checked the fall

with wires looped round it and tied to a knot
at the window grill. But it stunned me to no end
with its own seasons of little lavender blooms
and bunches of pea-sized orange bulbs the kids

collected for pellets. Days when I opened my door
and the colors were just there like gifts sprung
open they just liquefied my surprise.
Tilted one way, shunning the imminent earth,

the branches shot up and the leaves grew higher
the tree has let now into my room the light
of day and at night the streetlight and backdoor
light of the house next door. Birds still

find their way into its languid branches
and sing me wake-up trills and midmorning
love calls. It is why I haven’t cut it down
for good, even if I don’t read birdsongs right.

Today, at year’s end, I honor its charmed life
by hanging from its branches old love letters
of a season I have kept for some unhelpful
reason. The pages still look neat, almost

as if unread, and about to give off
a scent it never had. The handwriting
remains lovely even if pulsed with deep
shameless affection or with woundedness.

I have set the words there free from myself.
Only the cat stealing up the bent tree
would not find it easy to spot its prey
from among so many twirling folded wings.


Ricardo M. de Ungria

Ricardo M. de Ungria has published seven books of poetry and edited a number of anthologies, for which he has won five National Book Awards. He is a founding member of the Philippine Literary Arts Council. In 1999, he moved to Davao and founded the Davao Writers Guild.

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