A Gingko Tree Teaches Me Something About Memory by Fred Shaw

Rooted to its sooty spit of land,
stony and still,
the ginkgo stands beside a boulevard
of whispering full-speed cars.
A living fossil shot-gunning breath
through the wet-lipped world.

In class I teach freshmen writers
the inanimate object
is a trigger to pull on the past,
to embrace detail
while they capture the dead
as a wedding band, a T-shirt,
or the smell of an aunt
whose cheap perfume
burned the throat,
their fingers trying to touch
all the ringed years under wrap.
One long dusty summer note.

Now, watching a season
change clothes
amid the falling rain,
I see how the ginkgo tree
drops its yellow leaves,
all at once, unlike our human loss
in sudden autumn.

About Fred Shaw