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Barrens Willow.

Barrens Willow

   Dumb giant, I have no words to fit what I find on Burnt
   Cape: joints of a sprawled octopus-sized tree, its roots, or
   are they branches, meshed with a moss-clump meshed
   with a shrunken alder, or is it bearberry, sharing various leaves.

   What looks like a driftwood stick--white, gnarled: I reach
   to touch--is hard as a porcelain handle bolted down, bone
   beads stuccoed into the somehow live grain.

   Leaf-puddle tree flush with the gravel it grows in--is
   the willow something the great gull of winter shat
   from the sky?

   Unnatural snake twisting up from a cold cleft into sun,
   opening a mouthful of leaves.

   It follows philosophy rather than habit, adopting any form
   to suit its needs: trunk prone or upright, limbs fountaining
   or burrowing.

   Everything wants first of all something to hook to--a
   father's songs, a sedum stem to catch a windblown seagull's
   breast feather. A larch needle halts in the feather's lea. Lichen
   crumbs, moss dander sift in. A willow seed opens
   a trunk of its mother's letters.

from Lookout (McClelland & Stewart, 2010) reprinted by permission of McClelland & Stewart

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Article Details
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Author:Steffler, John
Publication:ARC Poetry Magazine
Article Type:Poem
Date:Dec 22, 2012
Previous Article:John Steffler: brutal mechanics and newfoundland poetics.
Next Article:knees on the rolling gunnels.

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