What Kind of Times Are These
        --- Adrienne Rich

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Talk about Trees

This morning Mom and I spoke for over an hour over
the Utah father who shot his five children, his mother-in-law,
his wife, leaving a note about her hellish "manipulation," how
he'd "asked for help" but no one listened, 

when what really happened was she filed for divorce, 
and his daughter told friends she was happy they were finally 
kicking the "jerk" out of the house, that she just wanted 
to feel safe,

and clearly, Mom said, he thought of his family as possessions, 
felt his control slipping away, interpreted their wish to live free
as a threat to his existence, and so wiped them off the planet, 
rewrote the narrative, cast his wife as the witch and himself 

the poor man facing the oven. And then we let the conversation 
drift as it always does back to our own traumatic house
and its twisted father, a gin-soaked fabulist who believed his own
lies -- stories of madness and female anarchy invented

to explain our rejection of his rule, his reputation as a man,
stories of wayward women hacking at the trunk of his
patriarchal tree with hysterical axes. Shit, we finished,
he died almost ten years ago now. Time to change

the subject. "I'll write my poem in response to the letter,"
I said. "The Utah guy's?" Mom clarified. "Yes." But then
I discovered that I didn't want to document (again) the sad
script of another white father shooting his house down

to publish homicidal fantasies of divine dispensation, 
especially not on Easter. Leave those words unread. 
Instead, let's end with the image of the old trees 
that still survive on our midwestern city street -- 

maples whose roots push on, tortured, persistent,
under the surface of our concrete and chemical lawns.

Suggested soundtrack: Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”