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There was an oak tree, a bench,
a stream, and a willow.

All of these things have no place in this poem,
but poetic significance never made sense to me anyway. Let’s say
the oak tree is me, and you are the bench,
although I think you’d rather be the stream,
and I wouldn’t mind trailing branches and whispering leaves.

No, I am the oak tree, and there is bound to be something
in how I’ve grown from something warm, brown, and wrinkled,
cupped in a palm and patted under earth. There’s nothing romantic
about being a bench.

The stream is better. Let’s say that we’d sit for it, as it drew us
always, in watercolours. (This may seem obvious,
but you know me, I like to be thorough.)
Always, the ripples across your nose and cheeks - always,
the willow tree, dragging its limbs across us, smearing us together.

Smearing is such an ugly word. But then again, so were you;
an ugly word, all consonants and a lack of Italian vowels. Your a’s were brash,
and every ‘h’ was breathy. It didn’t matter. I loved you anyway.

I didn’t mean to say that – not so soon.


Let’s go to back to the start.

I was the one they warned you about.
I was the one they told you not to look at, in case I saw you looking
and looked back. I was the one they dragged you from,
as you insisted loudly, ‘it was only a glance!’
and besides, you had lowered your lashes, so what harm could it do?

I went up an escalator today and missed you, and your lashes,
and the way you had nearly looked at me. I’ll admit,
I want to fall asleep to your fingers fluttering over my back,
and your palms cradling my ribs. I won’t tell if you won’t.

But enough about me.

I wish I could talk about you, but I can’t describe what you are
and I can’t describe what you’re not. Believe me, I’ve tried
and all I’ve done is compare you to a bench.
Forgive me, darling, I’m trying.

Let’s talk instead about soft, blurry days,
and the time you measured my spine in spans of your hand.
Or let’s not talk at all, and sit by the stream that isn’t a stream
under the oak tree that isn’t an oak tree, and listen to the willow
that isn’t a willow.

The bench is still just a bench.


I take it back; you are far too abstract to be a bench.
You would wonder, chewing on a pen or a leaf or your hair,
if a moon can be nervous and a morning can break. If,
given time, we would all learn to appreciate Dante,
or music written for a vacuum-cleaner duet.

Come, I would say. Let’s stay up, and read Dante, and listen
to a vacuum-cleaner. Let’s see if the moon can be nervous,
and if we can break the morning.

Come, I would think. Let me chew on your pen, or a leaf,
or let me stroke your hair.

And then the words I didn’t dare to think, like ‘stay’, and ‘cradle’,
and ‘you’, you, always you.

I’ll be the moon if you’ll be the morning. I’ll try not to break you
as long as you remember - I’m only a moon, waning anxious
and waxing lyrical, mourning for a morning that hasn’t broken yet.

Mind you, if I’m the moon and you’re the morning,
then how will we meet?


Something ends, and something begins.

It doesn’t matter, anyway;
there is an acorn and a vacuum, a moon and a morning,
an escalator, a pen and a leaf, and always, always,
an oak tree, a bench
a stream,

and a willow.
this is me trying to write in the style of richard siken, who, if you haven't read yet, you really should.

'litany in which certain things are crossed out' is one of my FAVOURITE poems.

i would absolutely love if somebody would give some feedback on this, as i'm thinking of making it part of my portfolio for applying to university :)

i'm thinking the title is lacking, too!
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sillycanadianwriter Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Oh my.

This is beautiful.

I'll come back and critique later when I'm not so blown away. If you wish.

Title does need work, though; it's a bit bland next to the loveliness.
22thorn Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2010
This is excellent.

I rarely :+fav: poems as I am hypercritical about poetry.
vgaer Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2010   Writer
how did i just now really, really read this? it's absolutely fantastic.
Carousel-Dreams Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2009
I love the title I love this I will always love your writing ever since I stumbled upon it. It commands real attention and focus and thought and afterthought and it makes me smile and it is beyond deviantART.
wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010
oh you are SUCH a sweetie :) thankyou, i actually really like this one :)

i mean, more than other things. which is good.

i'm SO glad you enjoyed it, i really enjoy you enjoying it :)
Carousel-Dreams Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010
Awww who's the sweetie now??
I am glad you are glad and I am also glad I can read you work - I've missed it. :rose:
wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010
there'll be more. hopefully. :)
Carousel-Dreams Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010
Better be! :3
AGMeade Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2009   Writer
I've missed your poetry, Rachel. Absolutely beautiful.
wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010
thankyou, Amber. :)
ruffienne Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2009
richard siken, interesting-- i thought of billy collins. his "Litany" is remarkable too.
RalfMaximus Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
If I was still reading for 'slam (if WS still existed) I'd do this one. It has wonderful moments I want to hear aloud.

Much love for it. ♥
wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009
i sort of used one of your prompts for it, actually - the 'something ends, something unexpected begins' one. :)

such a useful list! i basically went through it and picked out ideas that i liked, and this is the result.

so thankyou :)
RalfMaximus Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Once again, you manage to make me smile. ♥
buildthestars Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
absolutely in love.

i could imagine it in spoken word as i read it.

wonderful work.
wonderfulrachel Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2009
wow, thankyou! :)

i got the jitters and wrote it in literally forty minutes, suchhh a creative outpouring! haha.

i'm so glad you enjoyed it though :)
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Submitted on
September 30, 2009
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