Home >> Volume 2, Issue 01

The Dogwood Across the Street

William Tobias Straney

I came upon you suddenly,
A wingéd, flaming fire
That woke me from the busy day
From which I would retire.
I stopped and saw you gather up
As though within that hour—
Against the autumn’s aftermath
A living, burning bower.
You were not as the other trees
That died as dead within:
Such racks of bone that clutch the air
And strain to clutch the wind.
They stand undone, alone and dumb,
And die as though long dead,
And in their limbs the wind will rush
To sigh what goes unsaid.
I thought upon the burning bush,
Upon the cherubim;
And through your amber tongues of fire
There rushed some breathless hymn.
I swore to watch you day by day,
If not the whole day through,
If not to count each leaf away,
At least to know they flew.

I came upon you suddenly
And all your leaves were gone.
The embers of your fallen fire
Rattle in the wasted lawn.
You stand as though a flaming sword
Dowsed in the coming snow;
One bare1, ruined memory of
What I still want to know.

1    From Shakespeare's Sonnet 73.