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For Arbor Day, a childhood memory from Maj Ragain.

“Willows” by Major Ragain

Blessed are Those Who Mourn
                – Norman O. Brown

It was the mid nineteen forties.
The war was on the other side
of the ocean. I was five years old.
No school yet, couldn’t read or write.
My grandparents’ farm was my home that summer.
I wandered the fencerows,
the boundaries at the wood’s edge.
Even then the puzzle was forming:
why everyone I knew was hiding
something, coloring in the empty spaces
the way I did with my crayons.
I had not yet felt the weight
of the world’s heart,
but I could hear
the drum beat in my chest.

One summer noon, my grandma Blanche
packed a picnic basket. We found shade
beneath the willows along the branch
meandering through the pasture.
I played in the green tresses hanging
into the ankle deep water sparkling in its way
over sand and pebbles. The half dozen willows
leaned against one another, whispering in the heat,
old women still green from their tears.
Grandma called them weeping willows.
I heard her say weeping widows.
No, she smiled, It’s willows.

Now, after all these years, count sixty
I am certain it is weeping widows.

“Willows” by Major Ragain from Imagine Peace/Come Together, edited by Philip Metres, Ann Smith and Larry Smith. Bottom Dog Press, 2008. Used with permission of the author.

Maj Ragain has taught at Kent State University over the past six decades. The most recent of his five collections is A Hungry Ghost Surrenders His Tackle Box (Pavement Saw Press, 2006). He has hosted open poetry readings in Kent for thirty years, now monthly at Last Exit Books.