The Names of the trees and other poems by Alex Sullivan

avenue, trees, tree lined-2215317.jpg

The Names of the Trees

Do you remember the death of autumn?
You were younger then.

We stood by the old shed,
the one in the green pasture.

That was the day the trees were felled
one after another
by the men with machines, those metal,
gnashing teeth
and you could only cover your ears.

I wanted to comfort you,
my only daughter,
but I never could—could I?—and so
instead, I watched you

and picked you up
slung you over my shoulder

a sack of flower
and whispered—there, there.

That was—I think
the last time
I held you. Certainly the last
I watched you cry.

Now the pasture has browned and the trunks
are tall
once again—
aspens, I think, though you always knew
knew the natural world and the names
of the trees

—there is so much you knew that I will
never know now.

Oh, Jackie

Jackie of no mother and no future
Jackie of the long neck and chipped tooth
Jackie, body of sea glass, mind of starfish
Jackie of drama club and late-night Denny’s and kissing Charlotte on the bus ride home from the
field trip to the zoo

No, no, no

Jackie of cotillion
Jackie of yes ma’am, no ma’am
Jackie of the nine p.m. curfew and the father with the pick-up who parked on Charlotte’s lawn,
who made Charlotte cry

Jackie who denies

Jackie who wears the yellow sundress from the Walmart Supercenter
Jackie of in-school suspension, Jackie of the difficult home life, Jackie of the broken arm and the
pain meds and the pain meds and the pain meds

Jackie who should kill herself—

No, no, no
—Jackie who shouldn’t even joke about that

Jackie who’s lucky to have a friend like Charlotte

Jackie, down-on-her-luck
Jackie, praying for luck
Jackie, who doesn’t believe in luck or prayer
Jackie who smashes the lancet window at St. Joseph’s with a rock

Jackie coming out
Jackie on the streets
Jackie who should kill herself.

Jackie who waits

Jackie who finds a couch to crash on
Jackie who borrows the black jersey dress and bikes five miles to the nearest Longhorn
Steakhouse and works doubles by the weekend
Jackie who memorizes the table numbers and seats the guests and rolls the silverware and flirts
with the country club men, red with sunburn, for tips on takeout orders

Jackie of the shaved head

Jackie of the 1200 calories per day, mostly whole-grain pasta and bulk-purchase chicken, until
she loses twenty pounds and saves enough for first and last month’s rent at the Efficiency east of
the river
Jackie who doesn’t even need a co-signer
Jackie of the fresh start
Jackie who calls Charlotte

The Musician

O, joy! To be men of music
Bodies borne in rhythm
Movement blossoms, ‘longside tulips
When music’s road is driven

Voices stretch—voices sprawl, to all
In dire need of warmth
Though woes and troubles may befall
‘Tis song that ends the mourn

O, woes! To be the musician
Upon whose shoulders such troubles sit

Alex Sullivan was born in western Massachusetts and now lives and works in Washington, DC, with his fiancée and rescue cat. He is a member of the Writer’s Center and a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Northeastern University. His fiction is forthcoming in the Eunoia Review.

Scroll to Top