Poetry Contest Winner, First Prize, Spring/Summer 2023

Josh Jacobs

Tree Streets

Chestnut, Elm, Walnut, Pine:
imagine the trees stretched out for miles
in an almost-grid we walk each day.

Even if this neighborhood were a children’s book
and every house was built from their namesakes—
great silverback lindens smiling
as they split themselves for clapboards
right by their sign—I could never
name the trees. Every year they have to start
from scratch with me: “not maple, oak.”

But my youngest is a natural. At thirteen
they collect leaf pictures:
Chordate, Ovate, Elliptical, Fan
are plastered on their wall, perennial all-stars.

Every father who gets handed the suit
sweats through it, and if they’re lucky
lives to unravel it into something
their children can use.

                                       This one
has us unlearning their name,
that we happened upon by chance
but never thought was provisional
until our child declared themself
no citizen of that country,
nor either side of Boys and Girls.

I look with them at a beech,
so lately stepped out of its flowy skirts
of brown and gold, just like they wear:

they point out to me the buds,
elongated and still furled tightly
in their winter bandanas,

and which contain inside themselves
the inkling of male and female flowers
to manifest this one tree’s work
of the season to come.

The child has named themself
for an emblem of summer sweetness.
In the bees’ winter absence I still feel
a humming underfoot from sibling trees
all across these blocks, sharing
their news of pests and drought
and slowly sugaring where they can.