Chokecherry, Lilac – Sandra Kohler

My neighbor Kevin’s choke cherry is in bud:

tiny leaves, gemmae are rose and green commas

fringing the charcoal branches’ thick strokes


with ornate curlicues, trills like birdsong.

Consciousness is budding, is birds’ song.

Consciousness is never simple, not even


a dog’s. I need more authority in my voice

when I tell mine to heel. Say this is not a

game, this is not a dog, this is not a treat.


This is a Magritte: the word, the thing. In

last night’s dream, I’ve discovered a shade

plant that blooms profusely. Can I flower


so in this shade of my life? What do I

mean by flower? In my mind yesterday

I see my dead brother burning to ash, then


the scattered ashes. I can’t shake off the

image, the way I couldn’t get all the ash

off my fingers when I shook out pinches


of it I’d brought home to plant beneath

the lilac tree in my garden. Plant, bury.

In the mind, ashes turn seed.



Sandra KohlerSandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry  (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 40 years.

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