Ode to a Redbud
by Margaret Dornaus

it is a serious thing // just to be alive /
on this fresh morning / in this broken world.
            —Mary Oliver, “Invitation”

Redbud, such a simple name for such
a complicated tree. You, with blooms so red
they’re purple, fostering a crooked understory
at the edge of my forest garden. You,
doing your best all your brief life to disguise
the gnarled knot of your trunk, your brittle,
hard-knock scars with leaves that pass for teardrops
or hearts—depending on perspective, depending
on the season. You, growing without fanfare before
bursting in on early spring, an awkward adolescent, once
reviled; now kowtowed to by the sudden delicate
droop of a dogwood’s subservient white petals.
O, tree of my youth, have you come to tempt me
into yesterday’s fairytale of possibilities?
To sweep me off unsteady feet, take me for a ramble
in your branching arms, hold me close, heartwood
to heartwood, showering me with a hundred fascicles
of passion until I cry out, turn toward your light and beg
for mercy and the fire to believe in happily-ever-after
beginnings, if not endings today? This day, your day,
my day. This day of sweet imperfect beauty
in this broken world.

First appeared in the June 2021 issue of MockingHeart Review

PHOTO: Redbud tree in spring by pixabay.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem during the height of the pandemic from the sanctuary of the Ozark forest that surrounds my woodland home. Even before the daily onslaught of Covid-19, the vast collection of trees—oak, ash, pine, sweetgum, hickory—outside my front door provided me with a healing presence. But it took the heartbreaking beauty of a flowering redbud I planted years before the pandemic for me to realize the role each and every tree has to play as we struggle to heal our broken world.

PHOTO: Redbud tree, photo by the author (Spring 2021).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Dornaus holds an MFA in the translation of poetry from the University of Arkansas. Her first book of poetry, Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prosereceived a 2017 Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America. In 2020, she had the privilege of publishing a pandemic-themed anthology—behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19—through her small press, Singing Moon. Other recent work appears in Global Pandemic, MacQueen’s QuiinterlyNaugatuck Review, Silver Birch Press’ I AM STILL WAITING seriesThe Ekphrastic Review, and The Lindenwood Review.