Zingara Poetry Picks: The Name of a Tree by Catherine Anderson

Today’s Poetry Pick comes from Catherine Anderson’s second book  of poetry titled “The Work of Hands,” published in 2000 by Perugia Press, whose mission it is “to produce beautiful books that interest long-time readers of poetry and welcome those new to poetry.”

THE NAME OF A TREE

Right here on Ash Street, Ana says, she used to stagger
up the stairs like a drunk.
There was no light, so she patted the wall,
following hardened gum and kick marks.
Those were crazy days she tells me –
two kids, no money, no job –
when English made the sound of click, swish,
money gliding from a cash drawer,
and the only words she knew were numbers –
seventy-five cents ringing down the throat
of a soda machine, her soapy fingers counting quarters
to feed the dryer.

Some days I am Ana’s teacher, some days she is mine.
This morning we look through her kitchen window,
The one she can’t get clean, cobwebs massed
between sash and pane. The sky is blue-gold, almost
the color of home. Ana, I say, each winter
I get more lonely. Both of us would like the sun
to linger as that round fruit in June, but Ana says
it’s better to forget what you used to know:
the taste of fish cooked in banana leaves,
the rose color of sea waves at dusk,
the names for clouds and wild storms, and a tree
that grows, she says, as full
as a flame in the heart of all countries
south of here.

Catherine’s book is informed by her work with immigrants and refugees and explores the pathos involved in such work. Her poem “Womanhood,” which was chosen by Billy Collins’ “Poetry 180” project, can be read at poets.org

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