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American Life in Poetry

Kansas poet Wyatt Townley has written a number of fine poems about the swift and relentless passage of time, one of the great themes of the world’s poetry, and I especially like this one.

Finding the Scarf

The woods are the book

we read over and over as children.

Now trees lie at angles, felled

by lightning, torn by tornados,

silvered trunks turning back

to earth. Late November light

slants through the oaks

as our small parade, father, mother, child,

shushes along, the wind searching treetops

for the last leaf. Childhood lies

on the forest floor, not evergreen

but oaken, its branches latched

to a graying sky. Here is the scarf

we left years ago like a bookmark,

meaning to return the next day,

having just turned our heads

toward a noise in the bushes,

toward the dinnerbell in the distance,

toward what we knew and did not know

we knew, in the spreading twilight

that returns changed to a changed place.

Poem copyright 2007 by Wyatt Townley from her most recent book of poems, “The Afterlives of Trees” (Woodley Press, 2011) and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

 

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