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The World’s Oldest Cherry Tree Is Alive and Well but Barely Able to Walk

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Word is, the villagers have fashioned special sticks to prop it up,
to keep its 1000-year-old hat from falling to the ground.

Everyone wants to picnic beneath its waterfall
and laugh about the petals that fall into their drinks.

There’s a Japanese word for that, for the progressive and manifest
degrees of flowering and drunkenness beneath the boughs.

Another word for, roughly translated, you-must-put-your-nose-
right-into-the-blossom-to-practice-and-perfect-your-bee.

When I visited I rode my bike past narrow canals and thought—
just like Holland, where I’ve never been.

Pedaled right through the middle of a discourse
two young scholars were having about flexibility as they leaned

against the smallest tree in the orchard. Underfoot,
the spring grass was an animal whose fur must never be cut.

This by Emperor’s Decree. It rubbed itself against
the ankles of the revelers, the loud, red ones and the quiet ones

who stood there looking straight into the swirling cascade
and saw up close how the world was made.

G

Maya Janson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Best American Poetry, Orion, and elsewhere. Her first poetry collection, Murmur and Crush, was published by Levellers Press in 2012. She is a lecturer in poetry at Smith College.

Feature image by Tom Hammick, Three Beds, 2008. Oil on linen, 150 x 211 cm., 59 ⅛ x 83 ⅛ in. © Tom Hammick. Courtesy Flowers Gallery, London and New York City. Tom Hammick: Wall, Window, World is at Flowers Gallery, London E2 until October 10. A new book on his work entitled Wall, Window, World by Julian Bell has been published by Lund Humphries.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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