They’ve propped up the bent eucalyptus
with 4×4 stakes wrapped in steel,
its blossoms of red dust seething with bees,
its long skirts brushing the ground.
We came in from the east
with the sun down low
over the valley’s dry-limed earth,
over the rocks and cypress trees,
over the timeless cliffs.
If someone tells you this world’s not real
tell him to sit down under this tree,
its pods of ether, its botanical calm:
the hum of the female sweat bees
packing the hairs on their legs with pollen,
the grooved gray bark that smells like hashish,
its peeled husks unspooled and fallen.
Tell him to put both palms on his heart
and swear by his hands and swear by his feet.
Joseph Millar’s first collection, Overtime, published by Eastern Washington University Press in 2001, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and took an MA from Johns Hopkins in 1970. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His work has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Oregon Literary Arts. In 1997, he gave up his job as telephone installation foreman and moved to western Oregon, where he teaches at Oregon State University and in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program.