Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favorite Reads, 2019

I was debating whether or not to do my usual write-up this year. It didn't feel like I read that much and I wasn't sure I had many five-star experiences, as far as books go. But it turns out that in 2019, I finished 30 books, up one from last year’s count of 29. Perhaps this range is a new normal. I was so busy with other things: editing, writing (short stories, the bulk of that pesky YA I’ve been dancing around for years, and the beginnings of what looks to be some sort of memoir), and teaching, both workshops and my first experience in a university classroom. So I’m pleased with this number. 

My reading list for 2019 is the most varied I can remember in terms of genre. Of the 30, only 18 were novels. I read one short story collection (a crime!) and 11 books that fall into the “Other” column. Of these: two essay collections, two memoirs, one grammar guide and three other books that address the writing craft and/or life in some way. I read one book of "tree portraits"—a botanical guide of sorts, one collection of the extra bits an author has written as introductions to other books, and one scientific-leaning book about the hidden life of the tree world.

Readers of this blog know that the bulk of my summer was consumed with thoughts and readings about trees, so I won’t revisit that here. A couple of those books made their way onto my list, however, which I will begin here. My eight favorite reads of the year, in no particular order, are:

Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham (1997)

This is that book of tree portraits, one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, one that surprised me, educated me and surprisingly, touched me. Read my original post here.

The Overstory by Richard Powers (2018)

This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel—also from my Summer of Tree Books—is an wholly original, encompassing read with a unique form and layer upon layer of meaning. I wrote several posts while reading it; here are my first impressions, which were gushing.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013)

This is a literary mystery about several deaths over the summer of 1961 in a small, Minnesota town. But it’s also a poignant, coming-of-age tale and an exploration of memory and how tragedies can be reconciled with notions about God’s grace. I suppose if I had to choose just one book from my list as a recommendation, it would be this one, for its beautiful writing and deeply felt wisdoms.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (2018) 

These essays deal with what’s promised in the title—considerations of autobiography in writing—and other topics about the craft of writing, but they encompass much more too: reading, identity, politics, family, culture, and one man’s experiences in and out of making art.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (2018)

From the publisher: “A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.” And I would argue that if you start this book hoping for a This Dog’s Life vibe, you will be disappointed. It’s definitely about all of those things, but the dog is almost beside the point. As a writer, this is one of those novels that blows open a world of possibility. As a human, it reached me in ways I couldn't have anticipated. This novel sneaks up on you and doesn’t let go for a long time. Well deserving of all the praise, in my opinion.

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer (2019)

Yes, a guide to grammar was one of my favorite books of the year. This book is funny and entertaining and satisfying on so many levels to those of us who care about such things. If you don’t, then maybe you wouldn’t like it. But I can’t really imagine anyone not liking it.

Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories by Robert Shapard and James Thomas (Editors) (1983)

Considered by many to be the harbinger of the rise of flash fiction in the U.S. (although, certainly, flash has existed for centuries), this collection edged its way onto my list. Not every story is a five-star read, but enough of them are to justify recommending it here. So many great pieces that hold up these many years later. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017)

The story of a Mississippi family told in alternating perspectives, including a ghost’s. This beautifully written novel bridges past and present, the living and those who have passed, and illuminates the complicated bonds of family and unpleasant truths about America’s history. This was my last read of the year and an inspiring springboard into 2020.

What are my reading goals for the new year? Here are the books calling to me from my to-read pile, as of right now. In the coming year, I plan to read more YA and possibly, a biography or two. I’d like to continue seeking out novels and memoirs that experiment with form. And for my summer reading project, I might just build a French theme around that Hilary Mantel book.

As always, I’d love to hear about your very favorite reads of the year, or any recommendations you may have. Happy reading in the new decade!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Final Summer of Tree Books post: The Hidden Life of Trees

This week, I’m wrapping up my Summer of Tree Books reading with The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. As you might imagine, this book is full of interesting facts about the way trees live. Such as:

Surrounding trees will send nourishment to a sick or dying tree, because “every tree is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible.”

Trees have defense mechanisms such as scent compounds that can be dispersed in the air, or “toxic tannins in their bark and leaves” to deter insects and animals.

Like people, some trees are more social than others.

Reproduction practices between species of trees have been well-studied, but there is still a lot we don’t know and/or can’t understand. (This also seems very similar to humans.)

Sometimes, trees growing in a group make efforts so that they all reach pretty much the same potential, which seems to go against our “survival of the fittest” understandings of evolution.

There is more, much more, in this fascinating book and although it is perhaps a bit of a drier read than Meetings with Remarkable Trees, it is still well worth your time. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the most rewarding aspects of my summer reading project was the way all of these books began to work together, one informing and enriching the next. This experience has certainly made me look at trees, and the natural world in general, in a new, more appreciative light. And when I started teaching my class on writing for children and teens this week, I read The Giving Tree to them, and that took on a new resonance as well. That selfless tree!

So what of next summer’s reading project? Is it too early to start thinking about it? Well, for better or worse, a well-meaning friend has pointed me in the direction of the French Revolution and for a variety of reasons, that will most likely be my focus in summer, 2020. Recommendations welcome!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Summer of Tree Books: Meetings with Remarkable Trees

The third entry in my Summer of Tree Books is a unique reading experience. As for dimensions, the book is coffee-table book size: 11 ½ inches by 9 ½, and although it’s not a hardcover, it’s laminated and fairly hefty. I read the entire thing in one sitting during a flight to Boston. From the inside flap:

“With this astonishing collection of tree portraits, Thomas Pakenham has produced a new kind of tree book. The arrangement owes little to conventional botany. The sixty trees are grouped according to their own strong personalities: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies and Survivors.”

If you recall, this description was of great interest to me, the idea that a tree could have a personality and share similarities in this way with other types of trees. I was expecting the book to be a rather dry read, with the respite of beautiful photos to keep you going and I was wrong about one of those things. The book did, indeed, have lovely photos (in some cases, full spreads such as this one), 

but it was anything but dry. For each tree that Thomas Pakenham visited during the five years he sought them out, he wrote something of the tree’s botany, or history, or reputation. Or something of all three. There were stories about how a particular type of tree came to be in non-native area. There were stories of eccentric tree planters and the sociological connections certain groups have had to certain trees. We learn that like humans, trees have different lifespans that are affected by situation and chance. There are trees in the book with girths as wide 35 feet, trees that start as saplings only a pencil’s width. Pakenham shares anecdotes from his own experiences with his garden; his enthusiasm for the artistry and beauty of these often majestic beings comes across on each page.

And for me, there was a powerful synergy happening, synapses firing from one tree book I’ve read to the next. In his introduction, Pakenham recounts his experiences in Yunnan, in south-west China, where he came upon the only large ancient tree—a hemlock—in what used to be a forest. The rest had been taken down by loggers.

“We tend to take our large, old trees for granted… The indifference towards old trees makes a mockery of our supposed new respect for the environment. Consider the raw facts. The giants of our native species—oak, ash, and beech—are the biggest living things on these islands: heavier than any land animal, taller than most buildings, older than many ancient monuments. If a big tree was not a living organism it would still be a remarkable object.”

Later in the book he discusses the ways in which a forest works as a whole, integrating even dead trees into a system that includes plants, insects, and animals. He talks about the ripples of harm done by removing these systems and how planting new trees doesn’t come close to making up for it. And this topic was of paramount concern to the botanist character in The Overstory, a scientist who, by the way, wrote a study about the social aspect of trees (see next week’s post about the final book of my summer of tree reading). In fact, each of the four books I read this summer touched upon the tragedy of logging in some way. This is unsurprising I suppose.

On page 22 of Meetings with Remarkable Trees, we are introduced to the Tandridge Yew, a massive specimen that grows in a churchyard in Tandridge, Surrey. Pakenham explains the difficulty of assigning an age to this particular tree but guesses it is probably at least 1000 years old. And I thought, of course, of the yew that plays a very important role in Rules for Visiting. Although Kane’s novel refers to another famous tree—the Fortingall Yew in Scotland—I couldn’t help but think of these two old souls as related.

One of the most interesting aspects of Meetings with Remarkable Trees was discovering the strange and varied habits and features of so many trees. 
Like this tulip tree at Kew, which forms a flower bed over 100 feet off the ground. Truly, how would I ever had this perspective without this book? I would have never noticed, or looked. And at the end of the day, that’s what Pakenham’s book was for me, an invitation to look, notice and think about these beings that surround us on all sides, which have been here before we arrived and which will, in most cases, long outlive us. On our first day in Boston, we strolled through the public garden, which is full of lovely, old trees. Most of the garden was planted over a century ago, with a wide assortment of native and imported trees. They are labeled and well-cared-for. And probably it was my favorite part of the city, now that I was trained to look at trees.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Summer of Tree Books (and poems): The Willows of Massachusetts

This week, I am traveling with my kids throughout the northeast, spending much of our time in and around Boston. I'll post next Friday about my reading progress with the final two Summer of Tree Books. For now, here is:

The Willows of Massachusetts
by Denise Levertov
Animal willows of November
in pelt of gold enduring when all else
has let go all ornament
and stands naked in the cold.
Cold shine of sun on swamp water,
cold caress of slant beam on bough,
gray light on brown bark.
Willows--last to relinquish a leaf,
curious, patient, lion-headed, tense
with energy, watching
the serene cold through a curtain
of tarnished strands.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Overstory: Final Report

Whenever I read a book I find truly great, I almost don’t want to say too much about it. Because I think you should read it for yourself and if you’re like me, you won't want many details going in. The Overstory is one of those books. It’s masterful and will give you just about anything you could want from a novel. There’s beautiful language and great storytelling; there’s philosophy and spirituality and at times, sentimentalism. There’s science and art and madness and weakness and glimpses of the stalwart goodness of people. And there’s trees, lots of information and insights about trees.
Let me tell you about the structure. The first section, called “Roots,” is made up of the chapters I wrote about before—each one titled for a character. This section runs about 150 pages and is like an exquisite short story collection. The characters have no relation to each other, but they all have some type of meaningful connection to a tree or trees. In the next sections of the novel, called “Trunk,” “Crown,” and “Seeds,” relationships between these characters are drawn. Often characters come together in unexpected ways. For me, these sections ebbed and flowed. I had trouble at first remembering one character from the other. Powers does a good job of giving reminders but even so, often in “Trunk,” I had to refer back to earlier chapters to remind myself who was who.
I see a lot of movies and for probably the past decade, I often leave the theater thinking “Well, that could have been twenty minutes shorter.” And I will admit that at times in these latter sections, The Overstory lost me a little. I was more interested in some storylines and characters than others. And yet, all along I noticed the amazing things Powers was doing with theme and structure and as I mentioned before, this feeling that all was building and growing together, pushing toward something great. Could he have cut fifty pages or so? Perhaps, but given his prodigious talent, I certainly wouldn't be the one to suggest it.
Several times throughout the novel, the first line of Ovid’s Metamorphosis is referenced:
“I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms.”
I don’t want to say too much about the characters or what happens to them in terms of a plot. But I will say that each character has a revelation that paralleled mine as a reader: each of us saw trees, and the world we inhabit alongside them, in a new light. And I think if you get a copy of The Overstory, it will have an impact on you as well.
Also, I very much enjoyed Bookworm's discussion with the author, which you can listen to here.
Next week I’ll be diving into Meetings with Remarkable Trees, a lovely, best-selling picture book. The author, Thomas Pakenham, rocked the botany world in 1998 when this was published. The book is the result of “a five-year odyssey to most of the temperate and tropical regions of the world to photograph sixty trees of remarkable personality and presence…Many of these trees were already famous—champions by girth, height, volume or age—while others had never previously been caught by the camera.” The book has captured the attention of scores of readers, has been recorded in audio form with an accompanying pdf booklet, and inspired a BBC series. I'm very much looking forward to feasting on this book and the photographs within its pages. After that, I’ll conclude with The Hidden Life of Trees and because I won't have a reading update next week due to travels, I may very well have both books completed when I come back. Join me in reading these last two Summer of Trees books!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summer of Trees: Hiatus and a Louise Erdrich poem

This week got away from me and although I've been reading The Overstory (239 pages in now), I won't be giving an update this week. Instead, enjoy this lovely poem, which should hold you over quite nicely until next Friday, when I expect to have finished the novel.

I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move

by Louise Erdrich
We watched from the house
as the river grew, helpless
and terrible in its unfamiliar body.   
Wrestling everything into it,
the water wrapped around trees
until their life-hold was broken.
They went down, one by one,
and the river dragged off their covering.

Nests of the herons, roots washed to bones,   
snags of soaked bark on the shoreline:   
a whole forest pulled through the teeth   
of the spillway. Trees surfacing
singly, where the river poured off
into arteries for fields below the reservation.

When at last it was over, the long removal,   
they had all become the same dry wood.   
We walked among them, the branches   
whitening in the raw sun.
Above us drifted herons,
alone, hoarse-voiced, broken,
settling their beaks among the hollows.
Grandpa said, These are the ghosts of the tree people   
moving among us, unable to take their rest. 

Sometimes now, we dream our way back to the heron dance.   
Their long wings are bending the air   
into circles through which they fall.   
They rise again in shifting wheels.   
How long must we live in the broken figures   
their necks make, narrowing the sky.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Summer of Tree Books: The Overstory update

Here’s the trouble I’m having with The Overstory (which isn’t really much of a trouble at all): it isn’t a fast read. Each story/chapter feels like a place to stop and think, and I also take breaks while reading to look up facts, and words I don’t know, and things about which I’m now interested. After a chapter, I usually want to stop for a while and digest. Not after all of the chapters, perhaps; some are quite short. But the long ones, like that first chapter that I gushed about—some of the long ones feel complete and satisfactory, all on their own.
One such chapter is “Patricia Westerford,” which, basically, tells the entire life story of the so-named character. She’s a misfit in some ways, and her father eschews traditional school for her, choosing to take her into the “woodlands world” and teach her things about nature instead. This chapter is full of interesting tree facts:

“If you carved your name four feet high in the bark of a beech tree, how high would it be after half a century?

She loves the answer to that last one: Four feet. Still four feet. Always four feet, however high the beech tree grows. She’ll love that answer still, half a century later.”


“He tells her how the word beech becomes the word book, in language after language.”
Also, there are wonderful, wise sentences I want to read again and again:
“As certain as weather coming from the west, the things people know for sure will change. There is no knowing for a fact. The only dependable things are humility and looking.”
“There are a hundred thousand species of love, separately invented, each more ingenious than the last and every one of them keeps making things.”

And the beauty of some of these isn’t merely in the words, which are lovely, but in the way that each piece of this chapter ties back to and cooperates with everything else, much as the forest is described here:

“Everything in the forest is the forest. Competition is not separable from endless flavors of cooperation. Trees fight no more than do leaves on a single tree.”

There is a lovely, layering effect happening with this novel, much like the rings of a tree, as I can feel everything connecting and growing, one chapter to the next. Anyway, it’s quite remarkable. And I’m chagrined to admit that Patricia Westerford’s chapter was another that made me cry at the end, because of how good it was.

Also…I’m keeping a running list of the vocabulary that sends me to my phone for definitions while reading. For most, I was able to get a contextual gist, but I looked them up anyway. I'll share a couple of them here, in lieu of a tree poem this week.

Understory: a layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy of a forest.

Pleach: entwine or interlace (tree branches) to form a hedge or provide cover for an outdoor walkway, such as this photo.
This last definition reminded me that I had seen something online recently, about how newlyweds used to plant sycamores on either side of a walkway, so they could grow together. Like this:
Lastly, quite suddenly the other day it occurred to me that the title of my first novel, The Qualities of Wood, came from a metaphor, about looking closely at the grains and growth pattern of wood to ascertain its qualities, much as you look closely inside someone to try to know them better. And remembering those inspirations from many years ago is now enriching my reading of The Overstory as well.
I'll have some time on airplanes this coming week, and expect to make great progress on the book, and will no doubt have something to say again next week.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer of Tree Books: The Overstory (lack of) progress, Grief, Midsommar

Reader, I ain’t gonna lie—I haven’t made much progress this week on The Overstory. But I plan to, soon, and even though I didn't get many pages read, I’ve been thinking about the book nevertheless, and about trees, and lots of tree-related things.
The Overstory is written in a series of stories. Each chapter is a complete branch, if you will, about a unique character or characters, not related (at this point, anyway) to the other branches/chapters of the book. And like any collection of independent stories, I like some better than others. All of them are vivid. An Indian boy of immigrant parents finds his freedom in computers after falling from a tree and becoming paralyzed. A couple’s romantic history takes plant-related twists and turns. This week, my thoughts kept returning to the third chapter, titled "Adam Appich," which tells the story of a family with four children. When each child was born, the father chose a tree to plant:  “Leigh’s elm, Jean’s ash, Emmett’s ironwood, and Adam’s maple.” Somehow, the characteristics of each tree seem to correspond to the characteristics of the children, now grown, and in some cases, to  have directed the course of their lives. And this seemed to me a sort of reverse idea to that aspect of Rules for Visiting I talked about last week—when May and her dad were trying to choose a tree at the end of his life, to represent him.
When I was an adolescent, once I wrote a note to God and buried it under the tree in our front yard. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I’m sure it was something pleading. Like many people who end up being writers, I had many emotions and a flair for drama even then. I think about driving up to see that tree, to see if it’s still there, to see what kind of tree it is.
My mom passed last year and in the worst throes of grief, I feel like I’m floating, rootless. Around the same time she died, I was forced from my home, where we had chosen every element under our feet: tile, landscaping, dark wood floor. I lost that house, other places that felt like home, and my mother, all at the same time. A couple of weeks ago I was missing her, suffering, but also coming out of this latest round, feeling strong and counting blessings, and a thought occurred to me: maybe when all foundations are pulled out from under us, that is when we realize it’s been our own two feet holding us up all along.
I saw the movie Midsommar last night with two of my sons. It’s one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in some time—innovative, with thrilling and disturbing visuals. The main character is suffering from grief; the acting struck me as raw and true. It’s not a film that’s easy to describe and I won’t try. But there are strong themes throughout about nature. When old people in a commune die, the bodies are cremated and their ashes placed into the trunk of a fallen tree. In the surrounding forest, trees seem to pulsate with life and in one scene—I swear—the main character takes mushrooms and as she hallucinates, her shoes seem to be filled with roots instead of flesh and bone. Rooted. Her own two feet.
This week, my friend bought some new plants and I picked up the old ones to plant in my yard. I’m terrible with indoor plants. The only things I’ve managed to keep alive are three braided money trees. They’re a type of bonsai, I believe, and almost impossible to kill, either with too much water or sun, or not enough. They’re often given as memorial gifts, and I received one of them from a friend when my mom passed. Another was a gift from the housekeeper I had for seventeen years, before we parted ways when I moved. I can’t remember where the third plant came from but it’s over three feet tall now. Anyway, I’m hoping my friend’s plants thrive here, that they’re able to find some footing.
And now...a tree poem:
Roots and leaves themselves alone
by Walt Whitman
Roots and leaves themselves alone are these,
Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods and pond-side,
Breast-sorrel and pinks of love, fingers that wind around tighter
than vines,
Gushes from the throats of birds hid in the foliage of trees as the
sun is risen,
Breezes of land and love set from living shores to you on the living
sea, to you O sailors!
Frost-mellow'd berries and Third-month twigs offer'd fresh to young
persons wandering out in the fields when the winter breaks up,
Love-buds put before you and within you whoever you are,
Buds to be unfolded on the old terms,
If you bring the warmth of the sun to them they will open and bring
form, color, perfume, to you,
If you become the aliment and the wet they will become flowers,
fruits, tall branches and trees.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Summer of Tree Books: Rules for Visiting

Interspersed throughout Jessica Francis Kane’s new novel, Rules for Visiting, are lovely drawings of trees, like this one of the yew. The drawings are by Edward Carey and in the book, they represent “tree sheets” given by an elderly man to his daughter, as they try to decide which one to plant in memoriam when he’s gone. This may seem like a strange notion but the daughter, May Attaway, is a botanist by trade. She spends more time with plants than with people and over the course of the novel, she sets out on a journey to try to amend this.
I was fortunate to be able to chat with Jessica this week for a LitChat on Twitter. (You can read the transcript here.) We talked about her unique, initial inspiration for the novel. After the author Amanda Davis’s untimely passing in 2003, McSweeney’s set up a memorial page and as Jessica read the many comments from Davis’s many, many friends, she began to contemplate writing something about friendship—namely, exploring what it takes to be a good friend. And as novels tend to do, it became a stewpot of many other things as well. But that initial spark remains in the final product; the story is about May Attaway’s quest to reconnect with four friends from her past. Among the novel’s other ingredients: May’s ruminations about plants and trees, but also classic books and writers. May also notes the outpouring of messages for an author who has passed and tries to come to grips with a family tragedy and her life choices. And May has some thoughts about social media. The result is a touching novel about friendship, building families, and maintaining face-to-face connections despite the many ways we can interact more superficially on devices.

I have “known” Jessica Francis Kane for several years. I believe we first interacted online when I reached out regarding her story collection, This Close, which I loved. Recently, she was kind enough to read my novel Bellflower and offer a few words in support. Leading up to and through the publication of Rules for Visiting, Jessica has been busy touring and writing articles and personal essays, several of which I’ve read. And it seems to me that my experience of “knowing” her, and then reading a little about her personal journey through these essays, and then reading the novel—which, being a writer myself, I know to be an amalgam of conscious and subconscious aims—well, what can I say? My experience seems to represent some of what she was getting at with this novel: What constitutes true connection? How do we build our family and friend networks, and what does it take to nourish them so they continue to grow? 
I can hear you asking: WHAT ABOUT THE TREES? Yes, this book delivers on that too. The tree sheets are informative and make you think about the individualization between species (and humans, of course). Without giving away too much (because I really do think you should read this book), one of the most surprising aspects of this novel, for me, was the amount of emotion I felt for one particular tree, in one particular scene.
You may also be wondering, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OVERSTORY? Reader, I had to deviate from my intended Summer of Tree Books schedule to read Rules for Visiting in time for our LitChat. But fear not! I am back into the larger tome (150ish pages now), and will have a full progress report next week, along with another tree poem. In the meantime, if you'd like to become Jessica Francis Kane's online friend, please find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaFKane. Better yet, buy this accomplished, heartfelt novel.

Friday, June 28, 2019

In the Tree House at Night

On this second Friday of summer, I'm still reading The Overstory, by Richard Powers, and while perhaps that first ecstatic response has cooled, I'm still enjoying it quite a bit. I'm about one hundred pages in. At this point, the novel feels like instruments in a symphony warming up. I don't feel like saying much about it at this point, so I give you a lovely tree-ish poem instead:

In the Tree House at Night

by James Dickey
And now the green household is dark.   
The half-moon completely is shining   
On the earth-lighted tops of the trees.   
To be dead, a house must be still.
The floor and the walls wave me slowly;   
I am deep in them over my head.   
The needles and pine cones about me

Are full of small birds at their roundest,   
Their fists without mercy gripping
Hard down through the tree to the roots   
To sing back at light when they feel it.   
We lie here like angels in bodies,
My brothers and I, one dead,
The other asleep from much living,

In mid-air huddled beside me.
Dark climbed to us here as we climbed
Up the nails I have hammered all day
Through the sprained, comic rungs of the ladder   
Of broom handles, crate slats, and laths
Foot by foot up the trunk to the branches   
Where we came out at last over lakes

Of leaves, of fields disencumbered of earth   
That move with the moves of the spirit.   
Each nail that sustains us I set here;
Each nail in the house is now steadied
By my dead brother’s huge, freckled hand.   
Through the years, he has pointed his hammer   
Up into these limbs, and told us

That we must ascend, and all lie here.   
Step after step he has brought me,   
Embracing the trunk as his body,
Shaking its limbs with my heartbeat,   
Till the pine cones danced without wind   
And fell from the branches like apples.   
In the arm-slender forks of our dwelling

I breathe my live brother’s light hair.   
The blanket around us becomes
As solid as stone, and it sways.
With all my heart, I close
The blue, timeless eye of my mind.   
Wind springs, as my dead brother smiles   
And touches the tree at the root;

A shudder of joy runs up
The trunk; the needles tingle;   
One bird uncontrollably cries.
The wind changes round, and I stir   
Within another’s life. Whose life?
Who is dead? Whose presence is living?   
When may I fall strangely to earth,

Who am nailed to this branch by a spirit?   
Can two bodies make up a third?
To sing, must I feel the world’s light?   
My green, graceful bones fill the air   
With sleeping birds. Alone, alone
And with them I move gently.
I move at the heart of the world.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka