One of the Waves

Ellen Doré Watson

BPR 44 | 2017

The tree guy said it will cost eleven hundred dollars to save
my two beeches and one crab. He looked like Robert Hass,
which sealed the deal. Ko Un said experience is not a mound
of fertilizer; what you learn should become part of your body.
Plow Guy invaded the flowerbed with gravel, and his son,

Lawn Guy, returned every bit to the driveway I don’t know
how but paid happy. Ko Un’s wife said when he was released
from prison he was barely a cloud. Trees are our breathing,
but weak roots plus wind plus water equals “tim-ber.” I fret
whether the hemlocks should go, and the more precipitous

white pine. Tonight three hundred people inhaled Ko Un’s
poems, proving that translation is rebirth. I’d like a late-life
sexual surprise like the of-a-sudden dusty Christmas cactus’s
shenanigans last year. Tree Guy, a shorter, rougher Hass, wears
no wedding ring but does not do email. Ko Un shamed his captors,

filling his belly after each torture session, when they could not.
He says poetry says “Have me!” but also that he writes not to
remember but to forget—sounding a little like my -ex, but in no
other way do they resemble one another. This morning I broke
the bowl I made, beyond gluing. We must not whisper, whimper,

go wall-eyed. Says me. If my mother were alive she would kiss
these trees home, and if my father could scale a ladder he’d help
take the weak ones down, down, down. After three suicide tries
over decades, Ko Un read of a monk’s immolation and was
shamed. He stepped back from the boat railing, and now walks

the world as though his history weighs exactly zero. It’s five years
since his visit, and the beeches, broken-backed with snow, must
be chopped. Ko Un would see no lesson, so I’m trying not to look.
I’m testing out his humble, his gusto, remembering his response
to my stammered, extravagant praise: “I am only one of the waves.”