“This Tree,” “Death Dream” and “Society”

“This Tree,” “Death Dream”  and “Society”

"This Tree"

I stop walking,

and contemplate

the way the thin

arm of this tree

once bent upward,

before stretching

out over the river.

I’m just happy

with the result.

I didn’t need

to be here the

entire time the

way showed itself.

The arm is still

growing. I can

hear it drinking

the air a small

fraction of an

inch from its mouth.

I can see it,

the mouth, I mean,

can see the arm

because my hand

grips it—I’m trying

to compensate

for not being

here in some way

I can’t fathom.

I like how I’m

failing. It feels

good. A thousand

years from now, I

hope, the arm will

have made a bridge

that a sloth, or a

slight variant

of one, could cross,

its heart racing

to reach the end

before the river begins

to rise.

"Death Dream"

“An instant of longevity

is all it takes to make

a life,” said some sort of guru,

his whole body below

the neck covered in a thick robe

to keep the cold outside.

I had walked through the snow, falling

heavily, to see him.

Why wasn’t he inside?

“See this flake,” he said, “it’s falling

down already again.”

I kind of knew what he meant, I

yes, had walked through the snow, falling

heavily, to meet him.

I looked into his eyes as spring

entered, then spring was all

over. I began to worry

that there were two other

seasons to make disappear in

the same instant. “Worry,

he said, “but don’t worry.”

How did he know what was going on inside me?

He must have been some sort

of guru, or just a plain saint

whose eyelids had fallen

in a flash of freezing lightning

as his senses came back to him.


The temptation to flee

it isn’t the same as

the temptation to turn

away from it, to turn

for a moment or two

into an individual

able to surrender

almost everything,

and then to turn back

to the daily, insistent

strife, to turn back to it

without hope or bitterness.

Without hope? The question

is, is society life?

Well, of course it is.

It is, of course, where love

resides, and maybe self-

respect is precisely

what love breeds in us

individuals. And those who

don’t find love? They can’t

be negated, at least

not a moment or three

after they flee.

I’ll never flee, not when

I can sequester myself

within society once

in a while, like abiding

highway noise breaking

down at midnight and dawn.

Abiding? Vestiges of

irony keep me awake.

Where am I now? I have

a rendezvous with

teeming life, only

obsolete twice in a while.

Where I am is a place

where strife isn’t deathly,

where politics reforms

every single crack

in a necessary sidewalk,

where a drugstore exists

at the intersection of

pain and free, where

the temptation to wax

sentimental begins to

harden, and then begins

to recede, but not to melt.

I’m either in or I’m

in. There’s no halfway,

and no quarter of an inch

confessing that it wants

even less. So, armed with

a little bitterness, I’m in.

Against me bitterness

has no chance, or a little,

as a car walks into me,

as its metal skin plays

an ambulance tune on

an instrument that flesh

and blood hands can’t completely conform themselves to.

About the Author

Douglas Nordfors

Douglas Nordfors is a native of Seattle, and currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has a BA from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from The University of Virginia. Since 1987, he has published poems in journals such as “The Iowa Review,” “Quarterly West,” “Poetry Northwest,” and “Poet Lore,” and recent work has appeared in “Burnside Review,” “The Louisville Review, ”Matter,” “Chariton Review,” “The Hollins Critic,” “Potomac Review,” “Canada Quarterly,” “2River,” “BODY” Literature,” and others. His three books of poetry are "Auras" (2008), "The Fate Motif" (2013), and “Half-Dreaming” (2020), all published by Plain View Press.