Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Arborist

The Arborist

By Cornelia Veenendaal

Now the sun
comes blinding up between two gray houses
crowning the trees.

Air is sharp with white dew.
The market farmers tell us
these will be their last days in the city.

When it rains we go out with umbrellas.
Only he stands bareheaded, pondering:
roots or branches, branches or roots.

Under a washed sky he works on his house,
bracing a cellar door with salvaged wood.
He hears the roots making a din,
a thicket of arguments down through the deeded layers.

At an upper window he leans
into the elm risen from an old root.
How to say yes or no?

In the arms of dark trees
he lights his lamp. Eating a bowl of tubers,
he turns the leaves of his book.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring 1990), p. 118


Cornelia Veenendaal

Cornelia Veenendaal teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She is a founding member of Alice James Books, a nonprofit poetry press. Her work has been featured in Ploughshares, Sojourner, and the Beloit Poetry Journal, among many others.

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