noun
1. Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature
Late Middle English: from medieval Latin poetria, from Latin poeta ‘poet.’ In early use the word sometimes referred to creative literature in general.

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Pine Cone and Variations

for my father
I.
The pine cone in my pocket is ringed with many seeds.
It is the stretched neck of a wild turkey
whose head was severed and burned last November.

Here are its stiff wooden feathers, petrified
spotted and bleached at the tips. The curve of its spine
holds the memory of a hesitant cleaver.

The blood is green and thick and comes off
in opaque globes on my clean thumb. I stroke
the feathers along their brittle grain and they rattle

in perfect symmetry, each hollow pitch
climbing the back of another. The scent of Christmas,
men’s cologne, a mulch of rotting needles

at the strike of a doe’s hoof, and now wood smoke:
A forest blazes, dies in an empty yellow room.

II.
He was a pine cone stolen from under the boughs
of a small town. A finger placed here
against its broken stem understands him.

He went into some dark, moving pocket
without a sound. The seeds are his smashed fingers,
the drops of gum – children with intense, natural odors.

The drops solidify in cool weather, then
melt again – sticking to his hand for support.
I see this cone on a desk beside an ashtray:

It is not a paperweight, not a green plant.
Each day it grows smaller, drier –
to a wrinkled fruit – a brain stiff with rules.

I spin the cone, round and round, by its stem.
Out of its folds wave spastic antennae,
scrambling, hairy legs. An insect from the tree

hides here, trying to live. It is an eye
which looks out of the petrified body and sees itself.
It is the boy who will bite out of silence,

who will explode one day when his daughter talks welfare.
Now the seeds are many stretched tongues, striped
and blanched with work. The insect flees

across the tile to die. Father, I see.
I cup this brittle body in my hand. Just
here. Just this way. These words are your shade.

The Vest Conservatory for Writers
2125 N. Newhall St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
414-278-8933