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Casida of the Branches

by C. C. Reid

King-bloom, king-bloom,
half-brown by bud-break:
the limb that knows itself in other seasons
than lush, sudden spring.

Who sets out rainwater bowls
for the rented honeybees?
When the mountain shields the sunset
from the tiny fists of leaves,

some branches speak,
some listen. Funny how little
of a first eager star we’ll ever see.
We say we love the water

when we mean where the light touches,
where our bodies are held,
a few inches (if any) more,
where water laps the ground.

I’m puzzled by the untouched edge of you
a few months out of reach
and by the honeybee’s need
to drink. Buzzards swirl

and turn, riding thermals.
Black hands on a blue face,
still-winged over the dark-milk pond.
A sky that’s right twice a day.

It’s the stopped clock
we circle around.

Spring can be a beautiful but anxious time on an orchard. After a hard freeze, my father would pluck blossoms from fruit trees and slice them open with his thumbnail to see if we still had a crop. If it was too hot and dry, honeybees would drown themselves in every water source imaginable trying to get enough to drink. I had some idle descriptive lines in old notebooks I never knew how to use. 

Years later I had kids, and I learned how fraught pregnancy can be. There are these tender heartaches women share amongst themselves. My "Casida of the Branches" is a response to Lorca’s autumnal poem of the same name, which seemed like the right model for that kind of sorrow, along with his “Song of the Barren Orange Tree” to some extent. This poem is for more than a few women I love very much.

2018 Mary C. Mohr Poetry Award winner, C. C. Reid, is the recipient of two Artist Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and winner of the Larry Neal Writers’ Award for poetry. Her work has appeared in/is forthcoming from Poet Lore, Mid-American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Five Points.