Between the devil and the deep blue sea—

a tree, its branches whorled

to snag the spinner sun mid-flight

and glean from day’s glazed bowl of light

a skein of sugars for its sap.

Each leaf a photon factory

diverts some star-stuff on the run,

transmutes from lowly clod of dirt

a mesh of root and shoot and crown.


I’ll ask of sun an equal boon:

to make of most unlikely me

if not a tree, a greening branch,

an arm up-reaching into space

to pluck some sparking solar hairs

and weave a bed—but not to sleep—

to bound off like a trampoline

into those stellar arms of flame

that light the candle of my dust.

—Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet, and author of two biographies. In addition to appearing in Commonweal, his poems have been published in the Alaska Quarterly, the New Ohio Review, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and other publications. His first poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry.

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Published in the 2012-10-26 issue: View Contents
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