i had just hung up from talking to you :: jessica greenbaum

I had just hung up from talking to you
and we had been so immersed in the difficulty
you were facing, and forgive me,
I was thinking that as long as we kept talking,
you in your car in the parking lot of the boys’ school
as the afternoon deepened into early evening,
and me in the study, all the books around
that had been sources of beauty to us,
as long as we stayed in the conversation
padded with history like the floor of the pine forest,
as long as I thought out loud, made a joke
at my own expense, you would be harbored in that exchange,
but the boys were leaving the track
and after we hung up I looked out the window
to see the top of the bare January trees spotlit to silvery red,
massive but made from the thinnest
twigs at the ends of the branches at the ends of the limbs
they were waving and shining in a light
like no other and left only to them.

for a traveler :: jessica greenbaum

I only have a moment so let me tell you the shortest story,
about arriving at a long loved place, the house of friends in Maine,
their lawn of wildflowers, their grandfather clock and candid
portraits, their gabled attic rooms, and woodstove in the kitchen,
all accessories of the genuine summer years before, when I was
their son’s girlfriend and tied an apron behind my neck, beneath
my braids, and took from their garden the harvest for a dinner
I would make alone and serve at their big table with the gladness
of the found, and loved. The eggplant shone like polished wood,
the tomatoes smelled like their furred collars, the dozen zucchini
lined up on the counter like placid troops with the onions, their
minions, and I even remember the garlic, each clove from its airmail
envelope brought to the cutting board, ready for my instruction.
And in this very slight story, a decade later, I came by myself,
having been dropped by the airport cab, and waited for the family
to arrive home from work. I walked into the lawn, waist-high
in the swaying, purple lupines, the subject of   June’s afternoon light
as I had never been addressed — a displaced young woman with
cropped hair, no place to which I wished to return, and no one
to gather me in his arms. That day the lupines received me,
and I was in love with them, because they were all I had left,
and in that same manner I have loved much of the world since then,
and who is to say there is more of a reason, or more to love?

the storm-struck tree :: jessica greenbaum

As the storm-struck oak leaned closer to the house —
The remaining six-story half of the tree listing toward the glass box
Of  the kitchen like someone in the first tilt of stumbling —
The other half crashed into the neighbors’ yards, a massive
Diagonal for which we had no visual cue save for
An antler dropped by a constellation —
As the ragged half   leaned nearer, the second storm of cloying snow
Began pulling on the shocked, still-looming splitting, and its branches dragged
Lower like ripped hems it was tripping over
Until they rustled on the roof under which I
Quickly made dinner, each noise a threat from a body under which we so recently
Said, Thank goodness for our tree, how it has accompanied us all these years,
Thank goodness for its recitation of the seasons out our windows and over
The little lot of our yard, thank goodness for the birdsong and 
squirrel games
Which keep us from living alone, and for its proffered shade, the crack of the bat
Resounding through September when its dime-sized acorns
Land on the tin awning next door. Have
Mercy on us, you, the massively beautiful, now ravaged and charged
With destruction.
We did speak like that. As if from a book of psalms
Because it took up the sky