Thomas Reiter, "A Redbud Tree in Ground Fog"



We know where we are with a redbud,
from April’s magenta
insurgency, each blossom a keel and wings,
to October’s seed pods that look like
the blisters kids feed into cap pistols.
But at daybreak today our midsummer
redbud, each zigzag branch a typical
run of heart-shaped leaves,
has turned unfamiliar. Level light
coming through the tree projects it
wholly dimensional within the fog—
an assemblage of shadow lanes.

I find you’ve stepped into that tree.
What are you, love, a dryad? 
Before the moment can burn off
you hold out your hand, but my
entering disturbs the fog, and so
these branches you’re the spirit of
thrash as in a windstorm—
a sign of my unworthiness?

We let the cool air grow quiet
and your haunt settles into definition.
You reach up and undo your hair,
letting it fall into the leaves,
for all I can tell becoming the leaves.
Shadow starlings fill the branches.

Knowing a dryad must have her tree,
I promise to keep its shadow presence
whole, an image in a lockbox,
and on foggy mornings I’ll watch
for this redbud to appear again
and for you to draw me in.


Thomas Reiter's most recent book of poems, Catchment, was published by LSU Press in 2009. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the NEA, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He has new work in Sewanee Review, Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Gettysburg Review, and Shenandoah.