Psalm I

by T.J. Sandella

Somewhere, there’s a woman
who really loves trees. Perhaps
you think that adverb lazy, but I’m here
to tell you that I’m a man
who loves trees. I’ve learned their names:

hawthorn, honey locust, slippery elm. Some are deciduous
and some are coniferous, and, even more, I love
the way that sounds. Deciduous. Coniferous.

But I don’t really love trees. Or the birds
that make homes in the nooks of their branches.
Whole ecosystems are born and die
without my adverbial love. Stars explode.
Planets vanish. Chunks of night sky are swallowed
and my inexplicable heart keeps beating.

Really, I’m hung up on words, sadness,
and the landscape of skin between a woman’s ass
and the backs of her knees—that’s where I want to nest,
live, and die. What I mean to say is: there’s so little time

and so much to worship. That we have to choose
is the only tragedy. But there are enough of us
on this glossy planet to love everything well.

Will we ever say the right names? Will we ever sing
their litany? Is it too sudden to start

here, now?


T.J. Sandella is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize nomination, an Elinor Benedict Prize for Poetry (selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil), and a William Matthews Poetry Prize (selected by Billy Collins). He was named one of the Best New Poets of 2014 (University of Virginia Press, selected by Dorianne Laux). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, Poet Lore, Raleigh Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Passages North, and Hotel Amerika, among many others. He lives with his puppy, Rufio, in Cleveland, Ohio, where he’s a soapbox spokesman for the Rust Belt’s revitalization. 

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