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.