Tucson, Arizona, USA
On His Haibun “Ode”
The willow tree is long gone, ditto the little white house on Plaza Drive in Marin County, California, ditto my family save Allan, my brother.
. . . And the ghost of a boy named Steven who scampered from branch to branch and spied on Sheila, the neighbor girl?
Is he “here” or “there”?
“Both,” you will say, and of course you’re right. And yet . . . Re-reading my own poem I’m nagged by the odd notion that I was always a ghost, or what Sherwood Anderson called a ghost of the living.
Even more acute: the notion that my memories are ghost memories, my passions ghost passions . . . Even my loves. All are inheritors of a house of many green mansions, the happiest and saddest ghost of all.
Talismanic, the willow tree keeps its heart hidden from me; but I know some of its secrets. One day, equipped with a hammer, boards, and nails clenched between my teeth, I climb the thick, gnarled trunk to build a crude tree house, just long enough to lie down in. Other days I scamper like a monkey from room to room of the tree’s green mansions—for it is a house of many mansions—and spy on next-door Sheila, my fourth-grade classmate riding a pony around the small corral her father built in the back yard.
Sometimes at night the tree sings to me, its harp of leaves and branches accompanied by windstorms off nearby San Francisco Bay. But what’s most deeply rooted in my memory is simply gazing at those branches, a dozen shades of green, tumbling almost to the ground, reminding me always of girls washing their hair by a stream and then, on hands and knees, tossing it forward to dry in the warm sun, so that their faces are hidden.
Center of the universe
Eyes on a friendly star
Editor's Note: “Ode” was first published in A Green Pebble, Alba Publishing (2016).