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For A Row Of Laurel Shrubs

Written by: David Wagoner | Biography
 They don't want to be your hedge,
 Your barrier, your living wall, the no-go
 Go-between between your property
And the prying of dogs and strangers. They don't

 Want to settle any of your old squabbles
 Inside or out of bounds. Their new growth
In three-foot shoots goes thrusting straight
 Up in the air each April or goes off

 Half-cocked sideways to reconnoiter
Wilder dimensions: the very idea
 Of squareness, of staying level seems
 Alien to them, and they aren't in the least

Discouraged by being suddenly lopped off
 Year after year by clippers or the stuttering
 Electric teeth of trimmers hedging their bets
To keep them all in line, all roughly

 In order. They don't even
 Want to be good-neighborly bushes
(Though under the outer stems and leaves
 The thick, thick-headed, soot-blackened

 Elderly branches have been dodging
And weaving through so many disastrous springs,
 So many whacked-out, contra-
 Dictory changes of direction, they've locked

Themselves together for good). Yet each
 Original planting, left to itself, would be
 No fence, no partition, no crook-jointed
Entanglement, but a tree by now outspread

 With all of itself turned upward at every
 Inconvenient angle you can imagine,
And look, on the ground, the fallen leaves,
 Brown, leathery, as thick as tongues, remain

 Almost what they were, tougher than ever,
Slow to molder, to give in, dead slow to feed
 The earth with themselves, there at the feet
 Of their fathers in the evergreen shade

Of their replacements. Remember, admirers
 Long ago would sometimes weave fresh clippings
 Into crowns and place them squarely on the heads
Of their most peculiar poets.