I am sitting under the tree
my great-grandparents planted,
together, the day he went to war.
Strangers own this house now and were
nonplussed or moved by my request
to spend some time here. The tree is an oak,
not big by oak standards; only
a century has passed since they fought
the war to end wars, and a century
is but an oak’s childhood.
It is a stately tree, planted near
no other, and has grown tall
and broad. My great-grandmother was seven
months pregnant that day
with my grandmother.
There is a picture, taken
by a neighbor, an old sepia
photograph. A man in uniform,
his young bride, her hands on her
stomach, his arm around her, the seedling
in the middle. Their last
day together. He sailed for
France. A month later
she died in childbirth.
The candle flame is real.
I know I am real because it burns me.
Sometimes I cry myself to sleep
with the lights on,
but I am not afraid of the dark.
One night we sat around the bonfire in the Oregon desert.
Too close was too hot; too cold, too far away.
That night I learned about love.
I came to Phoenix because my life was over.
I chose it for its name,
a place for a new start.
I placed my palm on the plexiglass,
inches from the tyger in the Baltimore zoo.
I felt no heat.
Here on the edge of twilight
I stand half in, half out of day.
My left foot is the sunset’s child.
I sleep in a room filled with red light
from the vacancy sign outside my window.
Even eyelids cannot keep it at bay.
I often see the light at the end of the tunnel
just as I am learning to love the dark.
See how sunlight gleams off the dome
of the corn-filled silo?
When I was a boy, I wished on the first star.
I do not remember if I stopped wishing when I found you,
or when you were gone.
Marc A. Drexler grew up in Iowa, and has lived in Maryland or DC since graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1981 with a degree in mathematics. He believes strongly in non-hierarchical organizational structures in which everyone is equal. He worked for fourteen years at the Maryland Food Collective, and is currently a member of the Earth Collective, the group of roughly 8 billion people who make all the decisions on how we interact with our planet. He has been a Community Teaching Assistant with the on-line Coursera class Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo). He writes poetry to express with words what cannot be said with words. Locally, Marc has had a poem selected as a Split This Rock Poem of the Week and appeared in the Maryland Writers Association’s 2020 Poetry Contest anthology Maryland in Poetry. Since the beginning of the pandemic he has been exploring the hiking paths and neighborhoods in and around the parts of Seneca Creek State Park near his home in Gaithersburg. He is more satisfied by routes which complete a loop rather than retracing the outward path in return.
Image: Davidbena, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons