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The Perch

by
There is a fork in a branch
of an ancient, enormous maple,
one of a grove of such trees,
where I climb sometimes and sit and look out
over miles of valleys and low hills.
Today on skis I took a friend to show her the trees.
We set out down the road, turned in at the lane which a few weeks ago, when the trees were almost empty and the November snows had not yet come, lay thickly covered in bright red and yellow leaves, crossed the swamp, passed the cellar hole holding the remains of the 1850s farmhouse that had slid down into it by stages in the thirties and forties, followed the overgrown logging road and came to the trees.
I climbed up to the perch, and this time looked not into the distance but at the tree itself, its trunk contorted by the terrible struggle of that time when it had its hard time.
After the trauma it grows less solid.
It may be some such time now comes upon me.
It would have to do with the unaccomplished, and with the attempted marriage of solitude and happiness.
Then a rifle sounded, several times, quite loud, from across the valley, percussions of the custom of male mastery over the earth ¡ª the most graceful, most alert of the animals being chosen to die.
I looked to see if my friend had heard, but she was stepping about on her skis, studying the trees, smiling to herself, her lips still filled, for all we had drained them, with hundreds and thousands of kisses.
Just then she looked up ¡ª the way, from low to high, the god blesses ¡ª and the blue of her eyes shone out of the black and white of bark and snow, as lovers who are walking on a freezing day touch icy cheek to icy cheek, kiss, then shudder to discover the heat waiting inside their mouths.

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