the Catalpa

to thunderous applause June comes in
startling finches from storm topped sycamores
in a seesaw swaying sea of green roosts
sunlight and rain flung on an easterly course
and in the mayhem one skeletal tree upstanding
its trunk defaced by random woodworking
a grotesque of hollow mouth and pop eyes
pecked deep within the bark
along the limbs bundles of unkempt strands hang
like tatters on barb wire entanglements

yet the tree is far from dying
and far from the Mason Dixon line
just a faint whiff of forlorn émigré from the Carolines

cutting it fine but with evident signs of nascent green
tipped as the ever ready summer lover
big hearted bursts of leaf bigger than hands
presenting ostentatious orchid sprays
a seven-league giant’s boutonnière*
perfumed for thermal air and moth white
with speckled throats as insect landing lights

in an English garden wooded and grassed
Catalpa leaves the best ’til last

*phrase from Charlotte Hilton Green “Trees of the South” (1949) – see Catalpa: A Southern Tree loved everywhere

A specimen poem to unite with others at Poetry Pantry

30 Comments on “the Catalpa

  1. Lovely Laura….June here is cold, cool, wet and windy….more like April than June.


  2. What a rich vision of the tree you have given us!


  3. We had a catalpa tree on the farm where I spent my childhood. I’d not thought of that tree in years. Thank you for allowing me to revisit it!


  4. I remember having seen a catalpa tree once in a botanic garden… we do love those trees don’t we? I’m actually not so far from the northern limit of the Oak… and we value them highly.


  5. I don’t think I have ever seen a catalpa tree. Your poem really transported me with its well penned visual images. I felt as if I was right there with you!


  6. Such a spectacular vision of the tree you have depicted here!!


  7. Oh, how I do love this: “with evident signs of nascent green
    tipped as the ever ready summer lover
    big hearted bursts of leaf bigger than hands
    presenting ostentatious orchid sprays”

    It feels so present and inviting and easy to picture in a tangible way 🙂


      • Yes, that’s exactly what I mean….it’s so brilliantly worded that it really feels like we can almost touch the tree…such wonderful writing, Laura 🙂


  8. As I have a ‘thing’ about trees, I’m glad you brought this one to my attention. It is obvious that the catalpa has great meaning for you. Thank you for the introduction,



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