Scott Withiam

The Elms | For the Collection
September 5, 2015 Withiam Scott

The Elms

 

Workers were cut; had to be done for . . . corporations
were individuals? As I had been. As I was

taught so well, individuals could become anything, but dizzying
was the corporate height, their haughty spread. Yet

at their peak they seemed closer and closer
to diseased Dutch elms once lining promenades, their bending done

as will be done, while rooted among people strolling, people pushing
strollers, and O that sweet coo,

that sweet coo of xylem and phloem muddling Get it to the top!
Did a corporation know anything else? In the end, they had to be cut,

had to be cut down, but that wasn’t their end. World without end,
they were known as the disappearing trees. And you could visit,

if you could get inside, The Elms, their museum built in our memory.

Built on one small plot under their former reach was that house in the clear

with its friendly double-wide front porch,
and so many stamped plastic Adirondack chairs, So many, you said,

looking out, stacked high enough to lean, resembling what was all along
missing – a trunk, a trunk bent by a surprise overnight weight fallen

to its branches. The deserved payout was snow, snow
that had not fallen for anyone

to shake out, but I stood there and shook, shook (I guess I got in.)
an invisible branch with nothing on it, and felt

like an 18C teacher in a black suit
made blacker, no bleaker against that snow, against it, and ringing a bell

to gather children. Here they came, running,
running out.

 

 

 

For the Collection

 

My thing
for collecting?
Passed down to me
by my great grandfather,

who plied me with his collection
of fine mahogany boxes
fashioned for organizing
fossils, butterflies, and mineral rocks.

Mostly, a lot of Adirondack silica,
which scaled, slid off
its never-ending slips of opaque
covers. No one ever knew

these collective acts turned obsessive.
I began to store mementos
from every precious moment
down to a gum wrapper,

a piece of mown grass,
which eventually browned into a question:
could you love life too much?
It sort of made me anxious,

and might be why,
after a dangerously high fever,
I couldn’t hold a pencil
or my foot-long souvenir

Cooperstown bat
without feeling one
growing larger in my hand,
only to further ask

why, if I was feeling it,
wasn’t I seeing it? Life,
I wanted to believe, took care
of itself the moment I ran into a man

just up the street,
who wove the tools
in his garage with his life –
chisels, rasps, clamps with

smoking pipes and license plates,
and best of all, squirrel’s tails.
These ran along the top
of one wall. I never considered

the violence involved
in getting them there
or whether it was sport,
food or hate, only how

the fur fell away
and the skin peeled back,
each in its own time,
like a slow-burning fuse,

and how every cartoon
had one, connected
to a bomb, which blew up
in your face, and how,

after every explosion, Tom
went right back to chasing
Jerry, right back to doing what
they did. Squirrels too.

Scott Withiam’s second book of poetry, Door Out of the Underworld, will be published by MadHat Press in spring 2019. His poems have most recently appeared in Ascent, Chattahoochee Review, Diagram, Notre Dame Review and South Carolina Review.