Thomas Reiter: "Just Off The Path"




This walnut stump’s a bowl of bark

and tap root. Imagine

the tree’s ghost reaching upward

from decay, tall heartwood gone

for cabinetry and gunstocks,

for wooden Indians in nostalgic

Tombstones and Dodge Cities.

Still, this old vessel’s communal,

crumbling yet indelible

with its graces and obligations:

at bottom, a mat of leaves

that have lost their trees,

a carapace or two, some flight bones.

This is how you give up hope,

this is how you live forever.

In the last of yesterday’s rain

a disk of pollen floats, and there

a harvest moon rests long enough

to show us what to make of

this world of which we’re made.


Thomas Reiter's most recent book, Catchment (LSU Press), is his tenth collection of poetry. His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in the Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, and Sewanee Review. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.