The Trees in Riverdale Park

Diagonal paths quadrisect a square acre
white as the page in February.

From the soil of this basic geometry
ash, elm, and maple flourish like understandings
whose bare logics are visible,
understandings the theorem has allowed.

Between roam bodies of the sensible world:
people, dogs, all those lovers
of the material and immaterial

illumined, as under working hypotheses,
by sodium bulbs whose costly inefficiencies
Los Angeles and Philadelphia have apparently
moved on from.

The trees are grand hotels closed for the season.
But belowground, social life is taking place.

As when snow lay on the fields
and people descended to rec rooms, secret bars
like the Snake Pit in the basement of the curling rink
in Golden Prairie. Our big Ford nosing the siding,

we waited for our parents with the engine running,
under grave instruction

as radio sent our autonomy bounding toward us,
chilling scenarios inspired by the trucking forecast
and news items from Great Falls or Bismarck
freely imagined, songs that gave us bad ideas
and the seeds of a mythology. Ten minutes,

then one hour, two,
pop and chips and the gift of the periphery.

I've never understood what “starlit” means.

Even on a clear night in their millions
they cast no discernible light
into the dark expanse where a farmhouse gestured weakly

and grid roads and bullshit caragana disappeared,
where the animals’ lives played out,
smells travelling slowly, low to the ground.

In Riverdale Park the diagonal walks like diagrams
may be said to describe themselves,
which is a relief.

Now snow is blowing through the theorem
that the understandings broadly accommodate
and sensible bodies adjust their collars to,

and even bare spots left by departed cars evidence
how the outlines of loss might gradually alter

as experience is filled in by its representation,
even if not made peace with.

Copyright © 2019 by Karen Solie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.