March 16, 2012

John Kennedy

CHRISTMAS TREES

I’d rather see a field of them
with their arms full of snow, and maybe
some wren haunting the lowest branches,
flying from tree to tree
as if something could be undone.
Piece by piece, balsam, fir, pine
would give that field its wildness,
the first nature of anything worth knowing.
If I owned such a field, I’d never let
a tree be cut for Christmas:
let the pine cones take an age to seed.
I’d keep neighbors from meddling with that.
Though there might be a boy I know
who I’d let in to wander around.
His father will die three days before the holiday,
and this evening they’d have gone off
to buy some last city tree at a bargain price.
I’d let him in without judgment to find
a tree he’d like to hold for a time.
I know his mother.
I’ve seen her slap the boy.
If he brings one home this year, decorates it,
sets it with a star he’s balanced
from a chair, the way his father would have done,
she’d have it down and out the door in a fit.
That boy I’d keep in my field as long
as he needed a place.
I’d give him the music of snow.
The company of wrens.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
Tribute to the Best of Rattle

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John Kennedy: “If I can give any gift at all, I choose kindness, an ear to others’ troubles. This keeps me rooted in reality, not abstract ideas. I see my work as a poet as compromising the elements of tight writing—adherence to images and rich language—with good storytelling. If we care for someone, we tell him or her a story; usually it is our story we tell, whether we know it or not.”