At the Hill School guest house in Pottstown, Pa.

By Gerald Stern

(posted Wednesday, Aug. 5, 1998)

To hear the poet read “Forsythia,” click here.

At seven o’clock in the morning the only reading
was a condensation of an African novel
in which an Englishwoman’s faith is tested
in the rage after Lumumba’s assassination;
and the only wallpaper was a bluish print of
branches and blossoms in a latticed arrangement,
giving a kind of deadly peace to the wall
and–well–a chaotic collection of dried flowers
framed and mirrored and glassed, with a piece of birch bark
in the lower right-hand corner with this message:
For Old Times’ Sake, written across the lenticels.

But I was determined to watch a small bird and study
the root system of a scraggly walnut
and reach out from the second story to pick
a magnolia bud and put it in my mouth
like a Chesterfield or a Marsh Wheeling and feel
the juices run down my chin and take something,
a miniature hurricane lamp, a bar of soap,
back to my car and on the way confront
my first yellow bush since it was seventy degrees
and winter was gone and see what I would do
with the orange mud and the green branches this time.