March 22, 2019KR OnlinePoetrySpecial Collections

Villanelle of Watering the Trees

In Memoriam W.S. Merwin

It’s hot late afternoon and I am watering trees
using the zigzag technique to handle the gradient—
this is no survivalist act but one of constancy.

Magpies are gathering where a humidity
rises from the ring of watering before being lost to the heat—
it’s hot late afternoon and I am watering trees.

Swamp Yates planted a few years ago cease
to change sun into life, retreating to the craving of roots—
this is no survivalist act but one of constancy.

We’ve enough water in our ‘tree tank’ to do maybe
six more of these waterings, then we lose all to the drought—
it’s hot late afternoon and I am watering trees.

But I will never stop trying to lift the trees
to eye level and higher, to climb against the new climate—
this is no survivalist act but one of constancy.

Nothing in me is elevated in making sanctuary
and the body stress is neither penance nor punishment—
It’s hot late afternoon and I am watering trees
this is no survivalist act but one of constancy.

John Kinsella
John Kinsella's recent books of poetry include Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016), Jam Tree Gully (WW Norton, 2012) which won the Australian Prime Minister's Award for Poetry and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award, and Sack (Picador, UK, 2014). He is an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University.