driving the 330 from gander

Say they’re only birch trees.

they’re only trees. Don’t

think of what that means.

The land has given up, lain down

sulking for miles, refusing to stand

up to the heavy press of snow.

From a distance the shaking flakes

swarm in a smoky locust-swirl.


It’s hard to think of smothering—

that loss of air, tightness of throat,

heaving that rises through lungs

halted near the heart. Too near,

the way death struggles, hits home.


Birch trees streak by the roadside:

torn trunks, branches twisting into

sky—bronchus, bronchiole, trachea

filled with growths of snow—bodies

withered, firm in desperation.


I never could figure out why it took

so long for you to tell me. Going

about daily business, slowing down

only to catch a breather as the rotting

swelled from your inside out—


the air became dense in your lungs,

taking life a little breath at a time

until silence was sweeter than speech.

Quiet—as window haunting birch—

their names as harsh as yours.