poem index

Oct. 16, 2009 Tischman Auditorium, New York CityFrom the Academy Audio Archive

How to Uproot a Tree

Jennifer K. Sweeney
Stupidity helps.
Naiveté that your hands will undo
what does perfectly without you.
My husband and I made the decision
not to stop until the task was done,
the small anemic tree made room
for something prettier.
We’d pulled before, pale hand over wide hand,
a marriage of pulling toward us what we wanted,
pushing away what we did not.
We had a shovel which was mostly for show.
It was mostly our fingers tunneling the dirt
toward a tangle of false beginnings.
The roots were branched and bearded,
some had spurs
and one of them was wholly reptilian.
They had been where we had not
and held a knit gravity
that was not in their will to let go.
We bent the trunk to the ground and sat on it,
twisted from all angles.
How like ropes it was,
the sickly thing asserting its will
only now at the end,
blind but beyond
the idea of leaving the earth.

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer K. Sweeney. Reprinted from How to Live on Bread and Music, with the permission of Perugia Press, www.perugiapress.com, Florence, Massachusetts.

Jennifer K. Sweeney

Jennifer K. Sweeney

by this poet

poem
On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring
itself
poem

The snow leopard mother runs straight
down the mountain.
Elk cliff. Blizzard.
Hammers keening
into the night.
Her silence and wild
falling is a compass
of hunger and memory. Breath
prints on the carried-away body.
This is how it goes so far away
from our ripening

poem
This is a capsized game
and there is no display of aces at the end.
Buy a rare and expensive plant that never blooms.
Rearrange your books by the color of the spines.
Bury all your keys that don’t unlock anything.
These are not rules but merely suggestions
of what has worked for others.
For instance, the man who