Denise at Thirty Feet

Thirty feet up a giant beech,
deeply and carefully carved,
four-inch letters proclaim DENISE.

No heart, no declaration —
no necessity — the altitude is eloquent:
the bole grows straight and tall
and branchless.

I picture a fellow
splayed upon the tree,
legs wrapped round,
pants torn by shinnying.
He hugs the great grey trunk
with one arm, with the other
wields the knife, heart pounding
against the virgin bark he ravishes
while the fruit he hopes to pick
sits amused on the blanket below.

The tree has healed now.
I wonder about Denise.
Have she and he returned,
gazed up smiling, hand-in-hand,
or has that moment faded
like the ripples boys will make
leaping into summer ponds?

For newly cut into its skin,
a beech nearby
wears JANE.

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