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.”
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.