“I Was Taught Three” by Jorie Graham

names for the tree facing my window
almost within reach, elastic

with squirrels, memory banks, homes.
Castagno took itself to heart, its pods

like urchins clung to where they landed
claiming every bit of shadow

at the hem. Chassagne, on windier days,
nervous in taffeta gowns,

whispering, on the verge of being
anarchic, though well bred.

And then chestnut, whipped pale and clean
by all the inner reservoirs

called upon to do their even share of work.
It was not the kind of tree

got at by default—imagine that—not one
in which the only remaining leaf

was loyal. No, this
was all first person, and I

was the stem, holding within myself the whole
bouquet of three

at once given and received: smallest roadmaps
of coincidence. What is the idea

that governs blossoming? The human tree
clothed with its nouns, or this one

just outside my window promising more firmly
than can be named

that it will reach my sill eventually, the leaves
silent as suppressed desires, and I

a name among them.

from Jorie Graham’s Hybrids of Plants and Ghosts

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