Pruning Time

Mar 6, 2020

Today’s poem is “Pruning Time” by Richard Taylor. Richard grew up in rural New Hampshire and was a  member of the 1964 Olympic Nordic Ski Team.  He taught German, Latin, and English at Gould Academy for 20 years, and his first book, The Absence of Strangers, was published by Goose River Press in 2017.

He writes “I've been in and among apple trees most of my life and found that husbanding them came to include being husbanded in return. The last 30 years I've watched our trees here mature, lose branches, rot, split their trunks, bear fruit and refuse to die. So they've earned the care they get, the least I can offer for what they've had to say. At 81 I'm still listening.”

Pruning Time
by Richard Taylor

March is pruning time, shears and cutting pole
let in the sky, trim out the shoots that would
outrun the muscled limbs that bear 
and bring home apples.

What ritual do I dance, circling the trees?
I’m neither a pious deacon nor a priest but just 
a country man, and the old ones show me light 
through their innards gaping

brown and damp, dug apart by ardent woodpeckers 
hungry for grubs and sap already climbing up
the lean live wood toward petals for orioles 
and September picking.

Time’s honed axe has long been busy splitting 
down the middle of the wasting trees like a sleepless 
woodsman, and he’s impatient with our shadows 
borrowing the light.

I won’t be long, but I must trim 
the crowding shoots, the crooked twigs, 
as the trees have trimmed me to the ways
and wages of aging.

Planted like me in ’38, they see 
right through me and know a metaphor 
can fashion of a man a givable self, 
even on a chill spring day. 

They have had their long look at me, 
and we cleave as if twinned in the thin sharp 
light that looks for heartwood. They have felt 
the breath of shears 

and cutting pole above the patient snow
and will attest to pruning’s wages 
paid in apples and a simple man 
who plies his gift and skill. 

Poem copyright ©2018 Richard Taylor. Reprinted from The Café Review, 2018, by permission of the author.