Lithe. But who hasn’t called it this before?
If the word is right, use it, says Gertrude
who knows little about lithe but a good deal
about words that are right. Willow, says Alice.
Willow? Gertrude asks, full of cedar. Willow
she tries again and again to be lithe to be
something else than cedar.
A tree is a tree is a tree and of course
is not a tree is not a willow is not—she
is not a tree is not like other trees. With a cedar
it isn’t the trunk you notice first no not the trunk
as with other trees. The smell, says Gertrude.
You are the smell, says Alice. Gertrude says,
You are the branches. Lithe. Willow, says Alice.
Not the smell. Not the smell. says Gertrude, still
of cedar and of smell but not of Alice who is
the willow within the trunk you must be lithe
to notice. You are the branches, dear Alice.
Ab-sense, says Alice.
Alice of little notice, of branch but not of branch.
Alice is wind and breath is nods of yes and no
that lift and lay the needles. Gertrude knows
of lithe but little of willow, of Alice. Of absence,
says Alice, echoing herself.
Le Sacre du printemps plays on the phonograph.
Alice is at Gertrude’s side. She is in she is out
of the kitchen. Artichokes are soaking. Figs simmer
on the stove and brownies are baking. Gertrude stares
all morning out the window at the willow. See there,
she says, there is little to compare with the cedar.
She is awe she is out of breath she says cedar she says
nothing about the willow. Alice turns on a heel.
Let me know, she says, of your hunger.
Knowing how to touch the cedar is Paris
is the Rive Gauche is the lay upon the hills
beneath the trees in the breeze off the Seine.
Willow, says Alice. Even lithe might do,
she adds. No, says Gertrude you are right
about these things. Alice quite willow lowers
her eyes. Gertrude quite cedar smiles.