Dendromancy

by Ron Mohring

The answer always travels slowly. Ask the boxwood
hedges, so full
last week of clicking larvae they seemed to break

into a kind of speech. Or the Rhizosphaera fungus
working its way
up the branches of the neighbor’s blue spruce,

casting ruined needles down. I stare out at this half-
dead tree and can’t tell
if it’s raining: Trick of the light? Or just my failing eyes?

The mourning doves nest higher every year,
worrying fresh twigs
into a new accommodation. Finches

clamber and dart through their doomed home. The outcome’s
inevitable—the host
consumed by the smallest guest—but even though

for now there seems a kind of impasse, the top half
churning out its green
rebellion, my god, the whole thing’s hard to watch.

[italicized opening passage is borrowed from a poem by Ellen McGrath Smith]

Bio: Ron Mohring’s first book, Survivable World, received the Washington Prize; his second, The Boy Who Reads in the Trees, is forthcoming from The Word Works in 2023. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he manages Seven Kitchens Press.