The pine clings to the cliff side, angles
seaward above the waves, its exposed roots
attended by flowering weeds. Those fingers

will someday lose their grip. This is clear
to any one of us. And I believe the tree, too,
knows its long life will be cut short and

doesn’t care. Why would it? Who among us
wouldn’t give a year or more to lean against
the wind and gaze down into the void? And

doesn’t this dark desire to fall exist in every heart?
I remember my first fast car ride at midnight,
stoplights streaking by, rings of fire on that beach

where I first dipped my tongue into the wet
salty cave of the beloved’s mouth, the fury
with which I took the other’s flesh inside me,

the hard pits of the first fruit I chewed and sucked.
Now, in my calm backyard, I watch clouds
tear themselves apart around the stars,

listen to the possum’s claws rake and rasp
against the trashcan’s metal sides, inhale
the blossoming cherry growing up over

the shed’s flat roof. She drops her petals there
to make a carpet of snow. Even this far from
the ocean she knows what is possible, yet

is content to stand here, burrowing
into the clay earth, feeder roots worming
through hair-thin holes in the rusted

underground pipes. Even so, her lithe arms
sway in the night breeze and a few
of her bright petals settle onto the black pond.

They float only a moment before the moon-
colored carp finds them with his hairy ancient lips,
and one by one, carries them down.

Dorianne Laux is poet in residence at North Carolina State University and the author of Facts About the Moon.