Matthew Kohut’s poem White Ash came together over a few years as a reflection on the end of winter. He writes: ‘I live in central New Jersey at one end of a ridge called Sourland Mountain, and this poem is very rooted in this place, which provides constant reminders of the cycle of death and renewal.’
“… I am nothing but dust and ashes…” – Genesis 18:27
Your ash trees are done—
the blight’s got them,
said my neighbor as we stood
in the shade of the tallest one
beside the gravel drive.
It cost less to cremate my father
than it will to fell these trees
before they crash through the roof
while I lie in bed dreaming
that I am lost in a dark wood.
One joy of living under trees
is throwing lemon rinds
between two trunks,
sprinkling coffee grinds
Corn stalks, carrot greens,
peach pits, dead mice—
they all go back to ground.
If I remain here ’til I die,
scatter me among lemon rinds.
After a derecho lasting ten minutes,
trees as old as the Civil War lie fallen,
old soldiers prostrate in the mud,
too heavy to clear from the field
without a team of mules.
Branches spray like buckshot
cracking when they can flex no further.
A lone limb falls straight as a spear,
piercing the earth with a force
that shatters the shield of frost.
Cities of roots erupt from the soil,
boulevards and alleyways
flooded with light
after a life in darkness,
Pompeii frozen in time.
The golden grey ground of winter,
fallen leaves shredded to dirt,
char from once-bright fires,
flecks of ice glisten
in the returning sun.
On the last quiet day before the woods
begin to swell, when the light at dusk casts
the tips of leafless treetops in a copper glow,
I cannot hide—I am nothing but dust.
Gratitude because dust.
Matthew Kohut has worked as a writer, teacher, and musician for twenty-five years. His poetry has been published in Leaping Clear, The Dewdrop, Ekphrastic Review, and two anthologies by Beautiful Cadaver Press. He is the co-author of a book on social judgment theory that has been translated into nine languages. For the past decade his work has focused on helping people communicate more effectively in high-stakes settings. Another poem by Matthew Kohut on The Dewdrop is I Me Mine