tree

“Trash-Burning”, “National Bohemian Pastoral” and “Memory Tree”

In Poetry Issue Eight by Mercer Bufter

Memory Tree

Trash-Burning

I.

Out here it’s most weekends

in the summer. Tom’s fire-ring


is masoned from scrap

macadam, rock, leftover rip-rap,


bricks broken in half. He burns

yard-waste, switches, rinds,


paper, vines, and refuse,

bagged green leaves


that grey to ash, ash branches

burned down to Marlboro butts,


the grey faceless ghosts of nothing

important. Daily life, lawn-


trimming, plate-scraping,

weekend bustling, linger as smoke,


a Saturday smell. But now

and then, he stands there with


a bushel basket, crate,

or old dresser drawer, great


as an auction box-lot,

those absentminded time capsules


sold for a few bucks. He drinks

from a jar, squats, and sorts


with one hand as if browsing

for old tools, out-of-date parts


he can’t buy, but can only hope

to find. He tosses frames,


knick-knacks, fabric, glass, wood

and snatches of color—so many


faded snatches of color—

into the fire. I can’t see what


the stuff is, but his eye knows

what it’s doing as if he were culling


blue crabs in molt—the peelers,

the soft shells—from the rest


down on the piers. His efficiency

betrays nothing, so I think


his odd boxes must have weighed

down his attic too long,


must have served but can’t serve

any more, floral arrangements


cried dry and colorless

on headstones, leaving the markers


unchanged, still stark,

pacific, stubborn, and blunt.


II.

I felt bad for old Tom,

more and more unsteady, dancing


away from his bonfire’s

black mixed-media errancy,


until I didn’t, and thought

not about him, but that these things


were sad to burn in and of

themselves, a gilded frame I recalled


only seeing Tom pitch gilt

scraps, hold up what seemed


a portrait, and I was ten years old

again, in the front room


of a wayward aunt, on whose wall

a pink crab rode on a blue Bay


over cove-grass green as turtles

in children’s books. Her bright tasteless


yarn has never frayed, and

that crocheted, comic tide rolling


fast bursts into my present

when I drink and watch Tom


and the day darken on a weekend,

now well after five, and the burn-


pile stubbed out, is like a tonsure

in a field of wild grass.

National Bohemian Pastoral

The idylls of Theocritus,

the loss of Plato’s spark,

comedy syndicated,

quiz questions and porn

on VHS shining in the dark.

Troubles of a Western

mind, and ironies of vocat

aestus in umbra churn

like the too-violent blades

of my washing machine,

an outboard motor

introverted, a muttered

poem hearty, thick

in the slur of the throat,

burning down the Bay,

burping up the brackish

wake, whose tremors rattle

my recyclables all day.


I’ve mock here in fine

the silhouette of a fault line,

twenty-five and alone,

drinking beer in the daytime.

Memory Tree

Who knows what kind of tree it is?

Has no branches save two

hands-up overhead,

its trunk churning under

a full jacket of ivy.


It’s chair-back straight,

like a field bolted up in bed

not knowing what to do

next, and, unable to lie

down, and, scared to rise

further, just stayed there.


I saw the tree half-awake,

half-listening and couldn’t

tell if it was me or it, it or me

unfocused as a toddler’s


wavy green line.

Tower. Snake. Strike and

strike-stunned vision,

asemic calligraphy

naming nothing, yet,

something all the same

like the look of the world

in the middle of the night,


something waving


in a storm, something you can’t
see for itself, surrounded
as it always is by so many other trees.
About the Author

Mercer Bufter

Mercer Bufter's poems have appeared in journals such as Measure and The Portland Review. He lives in Greensboro, NC.