Stephen Carson

Associate Director, Membership Management, Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, MIT

The Company of Trees

In my shabby clothes,
dressed for a job I can’t afford–
these maples put me to shame.

Even with the sky drawn tight
as a gray drumskin,
the trees blush red and pink–
even pink! (I look closely to be sure)–
so fluorescent I swear
they’d glow in black light.

I’ve found a new way
to walk to the train:
Beside the bridge, a sandy path
leading up to the track.
On this old side rail,
I measure my steps to the ties–
shorten my natural stride–
pass behind the stamping factory,
already beating
its industrial pulse
at seven in the morning.

Flights of geese a hundred strong
pass overhead in shifting ranks.
They move just below the clouds,
due south, with purpose.

Someday, I know,
I will ache to do
even this one more time.
I’ll want to walk–crushing cinders,
kicking frost from the grass–
hear the factory’s far-off pounding
draw nearer with every step.
I’ll mourn the lost company of trees.
I’ll someday search my memory
even for the oily scent
of the damp wood beneath my feet,
bitter creosote the cold wind is lifting.


Appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of The Cumberland Poetry Review.