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Chestnut Falls

by Michelle McMillan-Holifield 

Glory be to God for dappled things—/For skies of couple-color as a brindled cow;/For rose moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;/Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The spring garden catalog
offers me a hearty
selection of surplus “choice” trees
in runneth-over abundance.
If I order, they’ll send me
whatever is left,
all they’ve got, in fact,
should I feel inclined
to order as much.
The weight of such
a choice! What happens
when I plot and plan
for Scarlet or Sugar Maple—
the glory, the effortless
color canopy—
and end up with a Sweet Chestnut or
English Carpathian Walnut?
Now, it’s more trouble,
the labor, the gathering
of fruit and the certainty
of noxious, rotting chestnuts.
Who would choose that life
and the promised heartache
of plucking chestnuts
right from the place
they’ve fallen, only to lose
them again along the way
as sweet chestnuts loosed
from the bushel or ripened walnuts
slipped unfettered from the fingers,
as if the land had a purposed tilt,
like an unbalanced table?
I review the catalog, look through
the floral sprays,
through the mist and din
of Quaking Aspen, Birch,
Poplar, American Redbud,
Colorado Blue Spruce,
Flowering Cherry, Weeping Cherry,
and I wonder about the choice,
the runneth-over abundance,
the sweat and slog I could be in for
should I strive for Eden.
Can I continue as I am,
backdrop as gaudy as a plague,
a sick scene of self,
or can I manage—
fruit tree, nut tree,
whatever is my calling
whatever prayer
I didn’t know how to speak,
whatever comes in answer?

Michelle McMillan-Holifield studied poetry and creative writing at Delta State University in the Mississippi Delta, where she received her B.A. in English. Her poetry has been published in several journals, including PMS poemmemoirstory and Lullwater Review. 

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  • Caro / April 22, 2014

    This poem is very beautifully written. Gorgeous imagery — and thoughtful and thought-provoking too. Well done.

  • j / April 22, 2014

    I agree with the previous poster in that this poem is so lush with imagery. It’s a just a gorgeous poem that evaluates tense decision making in a beautiful way. Kudos!