Why the Botanist Keeps Calling the Pharmacist

Poem by L.N. Allen

Because I can’t bear the thought of leaving
this house, this life, this assembly of atoms
that will then be scrambled and reassembled like a Tinkertoy,
a godling’s contraption that will only partially be me…
and its margins may not be symmetrical…
and because I love symmetry almost as much as I fear eternity
or nothingness, I will not meditate upon my own margins,
but upon the margins of leaves:

the paper-flat entire outline of dogwood,
the serrate rickrack of elm,
the crenate scallops of ginkgo biloba
the indolent curves of lobed white oak
the parted fingers of Japanese maple—

parted, departing every fall with pyrotechnics
in this section of the country, this sliver of the world,
this dust mote of the universe, this atom of the cosmos,
this neutron’s quark of all there is or ever was,
where every October, deciduous leaf petioles
declare their independence from the stem
and just let go,

while I in my worldly flesh, my human lamina
too erudite to trust in paradise above the naked trees,
too sophist to have faith in mulch or spring—
cling to my axis with an ivy stranglehold
and phone in yet another prescription.


American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2016, Volume 36, Number 2