Quiver Tree (Aloe dichotoma)

Not the horizon’s rippling, stick-built from wind-
battered grass; not the dark

cauldron of volcanic stone, earth-
worn to crumbling

black loaves at your roots’
blazing what failed

to surface as flow —

*

You, always
some other, your canary-yellow flower-buds said

to taste of asparagus; your name a hold

for arrows, poison-tipped tongues
long lost to the flanks

of animals long dust. Who now

scoops your marrow? Who dishes it
to the wind, to the amputated limbs

pillowed at your root?
Each dropped branch an aspiration

you abandoned to survive
the terminal rosette of sun climbing

your forked crown as morning

razored to gold scales
puzzling your trunk, candling

each stump’s bargain never
again to enter that particular

angle of air —

*

Why, then, to weather
that sun, did you marry

its mirror? Why gift
your body’s cool

to that regret,
to what wished to remain

fire?

*

Drenched in dawn’s
quickening blue, petrified across

the dolerite sill: your shadow
clawing inward until noon entirely

eclipses the dialectics
of your limbs and your ghost limbs,

what you gave up and what you
determined to.

*

Lost, that view to what stone might

have ascended to: night a sheer drop
distance starred to incarnate

beauty, what you could nearly
clasp between the clumsy rinds
of your leaves, thick as swaddled hands

fire and healing sear
to flipper, fingers forever sealed

beyond grasping —

*

But how else hold
such communal weight? Sociable Weavers thatch

half your sky, each grass blade bound
to forget how to live

in a landscape of wind was once to know always
something passing over worth

bending down to.

*

Not the evolution
of armor, that snow-white powder

blinding your limbs; not the shadow-
dusted nest

of evening’s descent, nor the ashen
wings the full moon

unfurls from your limbs. Not
the desert you rooted. Nowhere

any refuge from heat’s rising
more quickly than you could

possibly pole south toward that
retracting winter —

*

How can the rooted
migrate, except by seed, generation

by generation? Night

more prescience than reprieve: those brilliants
hung above you born

of fire, not ice. Nothing that might yet

dissolve into rain. That sky,
like a graveyard — cluttered by the dead

or the undead, anything

but the living — forecasting a world where beauty belongs
solely to stone, what even

the angels will be made of.

*

Twilight. You the very

architecture of night. The rising sun inked
to each stroke of your crown. As if you weren’t

its slave. As if by shedding its stars
sky could become

light itself, not a future with no room

for anything not fire. Not for your shallow
hold to the still-

blackened stone sill. Not for the shrinking

skeleton of your lingering, not the white lie
of your trunk against the sky’s bleaching

blue stare. Not you

at all, Quiver-tree, Kokerboom — vanishing point
of memory and mirage

tendered to the wake
of that clocked fire, what always

watched over you.

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