After the Diagnosis

          by Christian Wiman

No remembering now

when the apple sapling was blown

almost out of the ground.

No telling how,

with all the other trees around,

it alone was struck.

It must have been luck,

he thought for years, so close

to the house it grew.

It must have been night.

Change is a thing one sleeps through

when young, and he was young.

If there was a weakness in the earth,

a give he went down on his knees

to find and feel the limits of,

there is no longer.

If there was one random blow from above

the way he's come to know

from years in this place,

the roots were stronger.

David LaMotte


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Whatever the case,

he has watched this tree survive

wind ripping at his roof for nights

on end, heats and blights

that left little else alive.

No remembering now...

A day's changes mean all to him

and all days come down

to one clear pane

through which he sees

among all the other trees

this leaning, clenched, unyielding one

that seems cast

in the form of a blast

that would have killed it,

as if something at the heart of things,

and with the heart of things,

had willed it.


Christian Wiman is editor of Poetry Magazine.  This poem is from his acclaimed collection, Every Riven Thing. He has been living "for a number of years" with a rare and incurable form of blood cancer.  See Wiman's conversation with Bill Moyers on "Love, Faith, and Cancer," in which he reads another extraordinary poem, "Love's Last," from a more recent collection, Once in the West.