One Poem by Craig Cotter


I’ve been watching large trees
move in LA breezes—
80 feet high—pine, fir, palm.
They call me about my death.
I’m not frightened but don’t want to go.
Their leaves and needles wave at me
like stars on Potrero Beach, Costa Rica.
I’d rubbed Michael’s feet. He left.
I sat alone with a Pacific bay to myself.
Mosquitos feasted.
I would prefer the trees not call me,
I’m 60 and would like 40 more years.
But especially this one 80-foot pine in Glendale
says my time is up.
It waves against a grey sky.
I’ve known since I was a child that trees are conscious.
Souls connect without bodies.
“I knew you were here!” Alex said to me once
when I’d arrived in New York from LA
without telling him.
The palm and fir called me to death tonight.
They communicate “soon.”
They show reflected in moon and street light.
Some idiot had the 90-foot fir across the street
trimmed last week. Butchered.
Another neighbor paid $5000 to have his California live-oak trimmed 3 years ago
so more light would get to his backyard so he could grow grass.
Freeway noise and dust filled my apartment.
But it all grew back in 8 months.
His backyard still dust.
But this fir and me—he will survive—
tells me I will not.
I hope their sense of time is different than mine.
Maybe “soon” for a tree is 40 years.
The lawyer who bought my childhood house in Michigan
cut down my favorite oak—not a limb until 60 feet off the ground—
because he didn’t like raking its leaves in the fall.
Same for the sugar maple in the front yard
and 2 shag-bark hickories in the back.
The oak was at least 180-years-old.
The maple my dad and I planted as a sapling in 1967—
nine years later its canopy filled our entire front yard with shade.
I watch a pine in Glendale through the window
as my colleagues work at their computers.
Its message clear and irrefutable:
my time is up.
But why would trees call me to death?
They wave me gracefully off the Earth.
I knew on Potrero Beach I was moving further into the universe.
Michael’s feet were so beautiful
and no one had ever rubbed them before.
He was a guard at Sugar Beach.
We hid behind beach chairs close to the shore.
He carried a radio to communicate with the other guards,
turned down the volume.
I look out and my time is young and unchanged;
I look in and know the trees are telling me the truth.
Craig Cotter was born in 1960 in New York and has lived in California since 1986. His poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Great Lakes Review, Hawai’i Review, & Tampa Review. His fourth book of poems, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara, is currently available on Amazon.

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