December 2012 - Comments Off on The Borough of Trees

The Borough of Trees

Laura Creste '13


The manager of the 24-hour Dunkin Donuts
is angry when we shuffle in through the back door
to use the bathroom and don’t buy anything. No one wants

to spoil hard-won intoxication with a cup of coffee.
Pints of Majorska are tucked in purses, glove compartments,
showily revealed then added to glass bottles of Snapple.

If there was religion it was a belief
in the good luck we deserved. Nothing
yet was irrevocable. The trees above grow to reach

each other in a canopy. They carry on, ignoring
the suburban sprawl beneath.
They will grow through chain link fence,

consuming the ugly intrusion.
The roots force the slate sidewalks to buckle.
Glass glitters on the asphalt from newly broken bottles.

Girls sit low to the ground on parking space dividers,
sandals dangling off crossed legs.
The crassness is saved by its impermanence:

If we were any older than we are
now it would be hopeless. Someone says
what should we do? because

if you pose the question, you aren’t
responsible for the answer.
The cops are only bored when they swagger

in to the parking lot to say Get moving,
Why don’t you go home already?
We are only drifting around aimlessly,

with a cigarette as an anchor, but there is no arguing.
People climb into cars offended
or turn and walk down the main street.

I go home early and read The Catcher in the Rye,
which I liked until we talked about it in class.
What is the significance of the red hunting hat?

Everyone senses that the concern
for where the ducks go is too nakedly
altruistic to be believable, but we can’t

articulate this. The word soul makes me cringe,
as does heart when not used technically. Mildly
embarrassed is how I spend most of this year.


I paint the sets for the fall play The Crucible.
They are black-painted structures:
Closing night I miss the cast party

because my boyfriend has an open house.
We say pleasant things, we bore each other,
and in the morning bodies

sprawl across the furniture,
next to red rings under red cups.
I wake to a pale form, I am in between

my boyfriend and someone else’s expanse of back.
Thom with an h. The door eased open
despite the lock – the jostle more of an indication than function –

some time after dawn. I haven’t been naked long
enough in my life to feel unconcerned.
Later Thom will say sorry, he woke up

and didn’t know where he was.
The morning after is a sharp November day.
On my boyfriend’s back porch he breathes

messily from a spliff which structures the day.
My headache has not yet resolved into a hangover
so everything in my life seems inevitable.

He climbs a tree to retrieve the glass
holding his wine. The handle, hooked on a branch,
had insects drown in the dregs.

Later No Country for Old Men is playing in town.
Tom takes the minivan and we fill it.
The William Carlos Williams Center is a rundown movie theatre,

with an actual stage for performances. Outside boys
skateboard on the generously sloped brick patio.
In December the Nutcracker is put on by the middle school ballet.

I don’t think anyone reads him anymore.
William Eric Williams was my pediatrician
until he died in 1995. He told my mother

the poem about the plums wasn’t really a poem.
The office was still in his father’s house on Ridge Road.
Life was more beautiful when the word icebox was in it.

On the steps of the Williams Center Tom and I watch
our friend talk to a girl, touching her too much for emphasis.
He has a girlfriend, and we are busy making faces at each other,

censorious mouths and laughing-
wide eyes. Tom keeps saying blatant, right?
Before the movie we have time

to walk down a shaded side street and smoke half a joint.
He extinguishes the lit end against a tree and pockets it.
Don’t do that, I say too late. The scorched mark is small.

He thinks we can afford to be careless,
to believe in replenishment, that nothing
can truly be ruined or wasted.


The day after Thanksgiving the parking meters
are free and bagged with a Happy Holidays
note to encourage shopping.

Dairy Queen closed for the season
now houses the Christmas tree lot.
A man drives down from Maine.

He keeps a light on in his trailer
while he saws off the bases of trunks.
My sister and I touch all the trees,

our hands sticky with sap.
Once inside, the tree unfurls overnight.
The radiator eases it open.

Our principal dresses as Santa Claus
for the Christmas assembly and gives gifts
to his favorite seniors, until my last year in school

when it is decided Christmas is too political,
and the gift-giving problematic, especially
when a girl sits on Mr. Hurley’s lap. It just doesn’t

look right. It is the last part of the assembly
before we are let loose. I do not love this town
while I am in it but for this month I nearly do.

Park Ave is strung with white lights
and red-ribboned wreathes with golden pinecones.
The air is damp with chimney smoke and snow waiting to drop.

What a waste of a life to be so unhappy inside it.
In the next few weeks my boyfriend and I buy books
for presents, and spend most of the winter break in bed.

I didn’t realize my hands were ugly
until I held his and knew them well.
Our own hands are the template for all hands.

Published by: in Poetry, Volume 69: Issue 1

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