Poem of the Week | August 01, 2016

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Laura Donnelly. Donnelly’s first collection of poetry, Watershed, won the 2013 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize. She is also the author of a chapbook, NocturneSchumann’s Letters (Finishing Line Press). Originally from Michigan, she lives in Central New York and teaches at SUNY Oswego.

Author’s note:

When I was quite young, my family lived on several acres of land in rural northern Michigan. We grew strawberries, corn, pumpkins, potatoes, rhubarb, dahlias…even a field of young Christmas trees. I’m working on a series of poems recalling this place of deep memory and childhood, where the personal garden blurs with the archetypal. There’s nostalgia in writing about this place, but also acknowledgment of some sinister thing in the midst of it. In this poem, I wanted to question where that evil lay. Was it really in the desire for knowledge (the poem’s title, of course, refers to the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden), or some other unbending thing we had to confront?


Of Knowledge


    Between what is dreamt and the furrows
               of waist-high pine trees


    the oak’s shadow rose,
               a cloud over burnt grass.


    Five boards nailed into its trunk
               and a narrow plank


    where the branches forked –
              Nearby, the ball diamond,


    a sapling for first base where, close
               to caught, I twisted my ankle


    and heard the bone crack.
               I cried out to the oak –


    hard and unbending,
               which I thought meant knowledge


    but I take it back. I hated that tree.
               Impossible to climb, bark


    cutting my hands, ankle throbbing
               the next day in church


    before it was wrapped
               in mummy-like strands –


    my mind wild with field, the way
               I kept trying to stand.