Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Last Acacia

The Last Acacia

By Marne Kilates

May not be last except
in my mind, may not even be

an acacia except I remember
its leaves folded at dusk,
and we boys sheltered in its shade
many dry seasons

Perhaps it was another tree
where we sat hammocked
in a crook of its branch and ate
wild berries raided from the tangle
of the manzanita and lantana bush

From there I looked across
the wide patio to the old church
with its bell tower and twisting columns
of black stone and medallions
carved with saints

From there I looked at the Volcano
and its sweeping shoulders
covered with a blue-green jungle of sand and trees
drowning the orange train creeping
like a millipede across its rocky collar bone

From there I looked down on the town
I was born in and watched it wake
and go about its business making a living,
then return home and turn on the lights
among its hard grid of streets

I did not see the saws rip its bole
to make way for concrete—
a park and parking for pubs and stores
being built at the edge of the patio
facing the church on the hill

I just saw its lichened timber
once bearded with parasitic leaves
piled on the wayside, being eaten
by dry rot, before the trucks took them away

It may not have been the last—
surely there are other trees and other
unnecessary things that get in the way

It may not have been an acacia
except in my grasping memory
it doesn’t really matter

I seldom go back to my town
that just creeps and creeps forward
in all its ramshackle thriving


Marne Kilates

Marne Kilates has published four books of poetry, most recently Pictures as Poems & Other (Re)Visions. He has also published numerous translations of works by leading Filipino writers. He has won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, the NBDB-Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards, and the 1998 SEA WRITE Award given by the Thai royalty. Kilates publishes and edits the online literary journal The Electronic Monsoon Magazine at www.electronicmonsoon.com.

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