Tall, taller than we know
bur oaks to be out West, where
they’re scrub-like or
bigger and low-branching, but
never sixty, eighty,
a hundred feet tall!
No wonder I never looked up.
But why should I?
Early April is early spring and
greening bursting buds are
too far away, too high.
Instead I walked through muted shade
and close straight trunks—
gray, brown, black, cracked, furrowed.
Then just fifty feet ahead at exactly eye-height,
spots of brilliant white flashed, and I saw
clouds of flitting white moths ...
two wild plums, still
bare of leaves,
Last week I drove 500 miles east to where more precipitation lets trees grow tall. The “real world” and all that’s “important” soon faded. Six days were more than enough to repair my frame of mind and far from enough to make me homesick, but of course I came back anyway. We never learn.
In the draws were respectable hardwood trees, quite unlike our undersized versions. On the ground I found leaves of bur oak—I had no idea they grew so tall!—and American elm, and occasionally black walnuts split in two (Quercus macrocarpa, Ulmus americana, Juglans nigra). I may have passed basswood unawares (Tilia americana).
Wild plum (Prunus americana) is an old friend, from lower-elevations in eastern Wyoming. I see it has similar habits 500 miles east—growing most commonly in thickets but also as small understory trees, and blooming before leafing out. The flowers are said to be ill-scented; apparently I’ve not been close enough to notice. Ripe plums are sour but always a treat to find, as they’re often destroyed by our early frosts. I suppose the eastern ones are more plentiful.