Borrowed Words: by Bonnie McClellan


Adam to Eve, later in life,
after babel’s tower fell,
began his speech with borrowed words:
“Oh, my love!”
What world would I not give now
for that eternal, ancient fantasy:
“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou!”
In the shade of Kunitz’ VERY TREE,
the gentle spark released beneath
lithe pressure of your palm
above my heart
which would break
its fragile net of bone to rest
that narrow distance
closer to your flesh.
Now distracted by quick thoughts
of two french words: “chair” for flesh and “peau” for skin.
The first implying something
more animal/essential; the second softer,
more sensual than elemental:
“chair de ma chair.”
“os de mon os.”
ossature de ma vie.
bone network, calcite frame.
like bread,
like wine;
in my bones singing:
“sang de mon sang”
with each red cell
new marrow-minted.

By bonniemcclellan

Mother, poet, american ex-pat from Texas living in Northern Italy.


    1. The Testing Tree is a beautiful poem, extremely powerful, but I there is another, very early poem by Kunitz on the Platonic notion of “Tree”
      VERY TREE by Stanley Kunitz

      Forget the tube of bark,
      Alliterative leaves,
      Tenacious like a hand
      Gnarled rootage in the dark
      Interior of land.

      Bright incidental bird
      Whose melody is fanned
      Among the bundled sheaves,
      Wild spool of the winding word,
      Reject: and let there be
      Only tree.

      Earth’s absolute arithmetic
      Of being is not in the flowering stick
      Filled with the sperm of sun,
      But in a figure seen
      Behind our eyelids when we close
      Slow petals of the brain
      To match the nights repose.

      Colors pour in and out:
      Here is a timeless structure wrought
      Like the candelabrum of pure thought,
      Stripped of green root and leaf,
      Getting no seed to sprout,

      Yet lovely, lovely,
      God’s Very Tree,
      Form of whose intense inner life
      Abstractly branches to attain
      What glory, Tree, what pain?

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