To a Black Locust on the Autumnal Equinox by Daye Phillippo

To a Black Locust on the Autumnal Equinox
Robinia pseudoacacia

This morning the weather is all you-can-trust-me, again,
      golden sunlight, blue-sky chill of autumn, and yet

the black locust tree lies broken, one bifurcated trunk
      hanging like an arm, useless after a sword fight, the wind

relentless yesterday, dawn to dusk, like someone saying, Turn
      your little clock hands back all you want; some things

write time. A tree, for instance, ring upon ring. Destroying it?
      No time at all. Black locust, tree I’ve loved, every season.

The twisting ridges of its bark, the deep fissures that reveal
      the inner layer, orange wood, sturdy fence posts settlers hewed.

In spring, white, acacia-like blossoms, draping sweet fragrance,
      scent like grape soda. Summer’s feathery blue-green leaves

that fold for “sleep” each night, breathes antediluvian. Nesting
      for songbirds, woodpeckers. In fall and winter, its crown is inked,

whimsical and Seussian. Sentinel where the drive turns west
      toward the house. This time of year I’ve loved that tree most,

its sharp calligraphy and negative space, branches that conceal
      nothing and yet, hold mystery. A cardinal’s in and out.

Once, a wood duck. Once, a flock of migrating bluebirds paused
      to rest their sapphire wings. Two nights ago, as if it knew

this tree’s fate, the haunting nocturne of a Great Horned Owl.


Daye Phillippo taught English at Purdue University and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Presence, Cider Press Review, Twelve Mile Review, One Art, Shenandoah, The Windhover, and many others. She lives and writes in rural Indiana where she hosts a monthly Poetry Hour at her local library. Thunderhead (Slant, 2020) was her debut full-length collection.

One thought on “To a Black Locust on the Autumnal Equinox by Daye Phillippo

  1. Such a beautiful elegy and praise poem for the black locust tree here! I love the perfectly etched details about the birds, the leaves that seem to sleep at night, the subtle nod to Shakespeare’s sonnet, and the poet’s keenly wrought remembrance of the Great Horned Owl’s haunting nocturne.

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