I kissed a tree

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters
Third Place, August 2018
Judged by Kathleen Hellen


remember, in May,
the rough crack bark
of a certain tree?
Mari?

My mittened hand
was a furred glyph,
on the scarred runnels
of a certain tree.

How I loved thee.
The small, carmine roses
that overhung the walkway, for days,
all scissored

the lamentation
of steel ribs
in the water garden,
the overturned
rebuke: canoe

the bent aluminium
bullrushes.

How we all
brushed past
one another,

the night
of a blood moon
in late July.
And we did not know

how great
was our
laughing
jiggling
peace

and our
silence
– in which I kissed
a Tweedsmuir tree –
was the self same.


In this poem addressed to “Mari,” there are earfuls (“scarred runnels,” “scissored” roses) that underscore the “lamentation.” The reader eavesdrops on the memory of a summer, the beloved “certain tree” among edenic images of “ribs,” a “water garden.” In the tension between “laughing”/”jiggling”/”peace” and what was “brushed past,” what “we did not know,” the poem rises, returning to the certainty of the kiss, the tree. The self that is the “same.” --Kathleen Hellen

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