Kyoto Journal

Better Would Be Ume


The golden chain tree
which grew for years in my back yard
died this Fall.
I let it flower until the end,
when just one branch
dropped garlands the color of goldfinches.
Even so I kept the feeders full
until, with no more leaves to shelter them,
the finches, too, stopped coming.

We sawed it down.
I miss its stark calligraphy,
its peeling bark,
tortured by beetle bore and fungus,
dropping punctuation in the snow.

Come Spring I’ll choose a tree
to fill the emptiness
and celebrate the birds’ return with flowers.
It must grow quickly—
quick as days now.
I think of sakura,
so resonant of brevity,
but better would be ume,
that plum of puckered prunes,
which blooms in snow
and is tenacious
as a vinegared old woman
made shy again
by one last blush of love,
who only lately
how much there isworth cleaving to.

So come,
and cut a branch of ume.
Place it in a vase,
just so.
Share tea,
and watch the blossoms open
before a painted landscape.