My Life with Pines

By Tom Wayman

In the glow of a fluorescent, I sit leaning
over a table to sort through parts of
a jigsaw puzzle, working hard to recreate
a picture displayed
on the box I purchased
while outside
great pines have moved in the darkness
down the ridge to surround my house, many of the trees
taller than the roof. A fierce wind
causes the pine trunks to sway, their limbs
churning the dark in wild
and pitiless gestures.

Pines thrive in arid soil, mostly sand,
little else will grow in. These trees regard cedars
who love the damp, who must be surrounded by relatives,

as gloomy, phlegmatic,
timid. Cedars, according to pines, are simple-minded
about safety, suffusing themselves with water

as protection from fire. Cedars might as well be,
pines jeer, a fern. Whereas pines
only reproduce in the heart of a blaze,
their cones needing the insatiable rage of flames
to climax, open, release.

No matter how many nights, months, decades
I pore over my jigsaw
the one piece that remains to be found
is a pine.

Tom Wayman’s selected essays, If You’re Not Free at Work, Where Are You Free: Literature and Social Change (Guernica Editions, 2018), was a finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s 2019 Pegasus Award for poetry criticism. His latest poetry collection in the U.S. is Built to Take It: Selected Poems 1996-2013 (Lynx House Press, 2014). His most recent collection is Watching a Man Break a Dog’s Back: Poems For a Dark Time (Harbour, 2020).

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