Paulann Petersen is a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University whose poetry has recently appeared in Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, and Sojourner. New work is forthcoming in The Florida Review and Spoon River Poetry Review. See other poetry by Paulann Petersen in Weber Studies: Vol. 5.2, Vol. 11.3, Vol. 22.1, and Vol. 23.3. Visit Paulann's website at: http://www.paulann.net.
These trees are on fire, always
have been, the invention of green
simply the offspring
of modest longing, this color
a mere disguise for steady
blaze. Crane your neck—
nothing but this metaphor
will do—crane it toward
the slough where herons might be,
and you see one, lone
on a hummock of grasses
that rise from the water's
flat pewter sheen. What other
shape hooks earth to air
in this exact way: the neck
a glyph, a flicker of fire gone
half sashaying to heaven?
These trees stacked along water's edge,
licking themselves upward branch
by branch, are as much aflame
as this bird you sight
through heat waves buckling
the air before your eyes.
On the long drive to Hyatt Lake,
they trade bits of recurring dreams.
One makes thirty foot leaps,
another floats beyond the reach
of a curved blade, a third falls
from great heights in great fear until
he remembers he'll land ok.
He hits the ground with a jolt
and wakes up.
Thermos, lawn chair,
plastic bucket around each hole,
and the ice floor making its
Poles set, the men walk to get warm,
talking about Velveeta,
treble hooks, cleated boots,
the daylight that's left, the best
depth to try for another
flash of what quickens that world
just below their reach.