Thirty-Fourth Material Confession

Tim Shaner

 

We have three Douglas Firs in our backyard.

 

A messy tree. We have three of them. Two out front.

 

We have two apple trees. One we thought dead but now

 

Is bearing fruit. Sour apples that make you sick, though

 

The deer do just fine. They know just when to stop by,

 

A face there suddenly in the window. Imagine a young buck

 

Startled, hopping through thorny blackberries. Rising

 

Out from under the English ivy, a major invasive villain

 

In the Pacific Northwest, berries for the taking, one & all.

 

Messy when the wind blows and everything starts falling,

 

Including sometimes large, heavy branches, one of which

 

Stabbed itself into our roof, causing us to have to get it fixed.

 

Insurance paid for that one and didn’t drop us this time.

 

We have a plum tree. And a fig. And holly gone all gangly

 

As if confused. But plants are never confused, which is why

 

We love them over humans. The fig bears no fruit

 

And the plums are like cherries in size. We have azaleas

 

Where the white picket might be—like a natural fence.

 

They come in four colors: red, pink, white and purple.

 

I see everyday beauty out the windows, when I see it, front

 

And back—none on the sides to view our neighbors,

 

Whose houses are just like ours, variations on a theme

 

Called suburban development, circa the 60s, the ceilings

 

Uniformly popcorned with asbestos.  Off through some branches

 

I can see the blue shapes of the Cascades. Imagine

 

The Butte itself covered in houses. They go up to a

 

Certain border and stop before the commons. Imagine

 

Manhattan without Central Park. “Your mountain

 

Needs you.” We have four large rhododendrons. We have

 

Weeds, mosses, & lichens. We have ferns. Stellar jays & crows

 

Squawking back and forth. The crows after the eggs, I guess.

 

The breeze drowns out the sound of traffic below and

 

Above. We have finches. Wrens. An alder, laced sock-like

 

In lichens and mosses, arced like a desk light

 

Over our roof and chimney. Sometimes wild turkeys

 

Will migrate to the roof after pecking about

 

In our backyard, in what passes for a lawn—but clearly

 

There’s plenty of stuff there for the critters. Then one,

 

By one, they’ll fly off, nervously coasting down

 

Into the neighbor’s yard across the street. Douglas firs

 

Taking over, shoving out the native habitat, thanks

 

To the humans, particularly Europeans. We have squirrels,

 

Of course. One day a raccoon waddled into the backyard

 

When I was on the phone with my sister, going over the plans

 

For her treatment. It backed itself up against one of the bushes

 

For a good scratching. Telephone wires cut through

 

The backyard, several wires, each with their function,

 

Are strung from pole to house. We have ants, flies, bees, wasps,

 

Caterpillars, worms, silk and earth. The alder’s actually

 

The neighbor’s. We have a Japanese maple, under which

 

A fledgling rhododendron, with purple flowers. That makes

 

Five, not four. White, pink, red. But the bulk of it hangs

 

Over our house, save the roots, which are invisible.

 

Tim Shaner’s work has appeared in The Long Poem Library, Colorado Review, The Claudius App, Jacket and elsewhere. He curates A-New Poetry Series in Eugene, Oregon and teaches at Lane Community College. Picture X, his first collection of poetry, will be published by Airlie Press in the fall of 2014.

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