Archive for January 12th, 2019

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Magnolia by Lee Rossi

O . . . great-rooted blossomer
are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
— W.B. Yeats

“I hate this tree”—the first words from my new neighbor
bending over the ground cover beneath her magnolia,

Belle of the Old South, “sweet and fresh,”
subtropical exile to our fertile desert.

She was 80 or 85, the tree half her age
and tall as a three-story house,

still dropping leaves and seed pods
like a teenager with a bad case of dandruff.

“It killed my lawn,” she said,
a violation twenty years in the past, which she held onto

as if it were last year, or last week. It soothed
and fueled her anger, I imagined, to pluck the brown

papery leaves from their hiding place in ivy
and stuff them in a green bin. I wondered if Sisyphus

hated his rock as much as she hated that tree.
I knew how much I hated my job, eight or nine

hours every day trying to lift the world another inch.
And every night more leaves would fall, leaves

and pods, those sexual hand grenades, those
pregnant cluster bombs. And yet she could no more live

without the tree than she could without her anger.
They were like an old couple, so deformed

by their love that they couldn’t want anything else.
Every day after work I’d come home and find her,

bowed or kneeling, or toward the end just sitting in the ivy—
city of beetles, city of mice—and see the tree,

blazoned with sunset’s gilt, its orange
and ruby ornaments a flaming candelabra.


Date: 2018

By: Lee Rossi (19??- )