Nine Poems by Dick Westheimer
The Plane Tree
There was nothing much to distinguish the single tree
which stood like a trim little sycamore dressed in olive drab.
Now alone in the park, its sisters lay nearby, their limbs crabbed
as if felled by firing squad, each bleeding sawdust at its feet.
An woman in a housecoat wrapped her arms around
the survivor, held it as she would a child to protect
it from men in slick suits, red ties knotted at their necks.
But these princes who always get their way had aroused
a mighty She who would not relent, held tight
until a judge, like Solomon, decreed: The Tree
Will live. Somewhere else. The bourgeoisie
will pay to get their way. If the tree could reply
it would be with a heartwood wail, like a refugee whose
roots torn loose scrabble in a distant place, alone, dispossessed.
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
What is the name of that moon she says
it is called ‘the moon’ he says
no I mean its name - what is it called?
waning gibbous he says and soon it will the third quarter and then
waning crescent. But you know even then, when it appears smallest,
the moon is half illuminated.
Oh, she says. I thought it might have a name - something like
‘the Mama Moon’ – pregnant, swelling at the belly. And see
how she gazes back, over her shoulder at the sun, rising –
as if she awaits the day.
One should never look directly into the sun, he says, except
during a total eclipse – right at the moment of totality
when you can see the luminous corona – which is always there but lost
in the sun’s brilliant radiance.
Last week, she says, there was a beautiful full moon,
the ‘Strawberry Moon,’ I heard it called, the smallest, sweetest moon...
It was at apogee, he says, when it is farthest away...
And near it, she says, as it rose, was the brightest star I'd ever seen,
enchanting in the evening sky.
‘Venus,’ he says. You've seen it before. And it is a planet not a star.
And like the moon, it has phases. It seems inconstant as seen from here,
but it too is always half illuminated.
His hand in hers, they drift home. He scuffs at stones
surfaced on their packed gravel lane. They enter from the rising day
to the kitchen smelling of chamomile and fry butter.
She looks to the calendar, checks her watch, sees the day before her. His gaze
is caught by the luminous skin at her neckline, her strawberry lips,
her full moon hips, her hair brushing her shoulder. He sighs inside:
you are the sun the moon and the stars.
Becoming Native to this Place