Cal Freeman — Blue Spruce


Blue Spruce


“Careful,” I say as my neighbor takes

a radial saw to the fallen trunk.


She couldn’t eat,

                             couldn’t smoke,


These are the wrong tools.

This is the end of the birds’


they found a grey

                            mass on her lung.


and beetles’ lair. Clods of clay

and yellow sand surround Jerry like


                            There were specks

                            of blood on Kleenex


busted concrete, scabrous roots

bent and jutting from the rabble


in the bathroom

                            garbage can.


like rebar. Cut shoots

bound with twine, the sapping


She was a good person

                            and he was the one


trunk denuded, in the sun-

blanched August lawn


who messed up, cheated

                            with a girl named Rose


last year’s empty robin’s nest

a relic, its woven straw unraveling,


                            from the bowling alley.

                            He told me he didn’t


crickets startled from the needle

down. Thin arms defined


blame her

                             for never forgiving him.


and glistening, burl-grains

in gouty hands. The stump


She was a UAW steward

                             before she retired,


sheds heavy clods of loam

as the sledge connects. Freed


so she didn’t take

                              anybody’s shit.


from the cut roots, it begins

to swivel out of earth. We drop


                              He told me they went

                              to her parents’ grave


cinderblocks and rock salt

in the hole; we bury them


and she spoke to her dead

                              father and cried. “I was the one


like household pets and tamp

the ground.


who messed up,” he repeated. 

                              “It should be me,” he said.

Cal Freeman is the author of the book Fight Songs. His writing has appeared in many journals including Southword, The Moth, Passages North, The Journal, Hippocampus, Drunken Boat, and The Poetry Review. He currently serves as music editor of The Museum of Americana and teaches at Oakland University. Find him here!

  • In the featured image: Cal Freeman

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