Poem of the Week: “Like Vine Maple Red in the Fir,” by Alice Derry

Join us Wednesday, Oct. 16 as Alice Derry and Tess Gallagher open our Fall Writing Series.

Like Vine Maple Red in the Fir

The season turns.

The trees wound the streets.

We too want to be touched.

We press a scab

to feel the pain. Or tongue

that place in the mind

which yields a death.

Last week, your grandfather. The old coot,

95 and every relative furious and mute

by the time he was sixty.

So you don’t cry. It’s a big relief,

but we move about all week

wondering if eating is really appropriate.

His death is like vine maple red in the fir

on a hillside. Like meeting a deer in dark trees.

Not scary. Just a chill down the spine,

and the exhale is easy.

The lung cancer death of our friend’s father isn’t.

But we envy her trembling openness.

Every day the dark comes earlier. Their grip

loosened by frost, the leaves hold

a fevered light in their consumption.

Illuminated texts. Their authors were after

the burning bush—the voice

insistent, compelling.

© Alice Derry, 1986. Content downloaded from, 10/4/19; Published in Ploughshares, Vol. 12, No. 4 (1986), pp. 200-201

Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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