David Hopes
Ailanthus


1

The power of rosemary is to recall.
The power of vervain is to bind.
By the power of ailanthus,
tree-of-heaven,
your dead wake dancing
when you dance, proud or timid
you cannot tell, for dancing takes them,
unrepentant, beautiful at last in time.


2

Light shines bottles in the package store
window into jewels, topaz, tourmaline, beryl.
Juke box splashes on the sidewalk,
Motown, reggae, LA bop-shoo-op.
Women saunter in summer dresses,
pretty ones and plain ones.
Sometimes they are phantoms.
Sometimes they are dresses around air,
feathers, gestures of leaves,
Helen who never went to Troy,
being god's daughter and above that.
Paris raped fog in cloth-of-gold.
Ghosts fed heroes to the crows.

Drunks buy whiskey for sleep
but it gives them dreams.
They wake, longing to tell, wordless
as their fathers on the windy battleplain.
Their story is--one time and always--
this woman. . .this woman . .
as they loved Helen at the last
even with their butchered eyes.


3

A whore gunned down becomes this tree--
fingers turned to a fringe of leaves,
spike heels these roots knifed
through rock and asphalt.
The power of ailanthus is make do.
Her voice in the city rain reminds us
no on intended for time
to wander where it does,
strangely and fatally--
like being drunk and falling
into a store front window,
your image etched in crystal
the last instant
you will look
as you remember.