Jeff Oaks

About Place Journal, Volume II Issue I
Trees

 
Late Stage Villanelle
 
“Flourish and ruin keep leaving each other,”
wrote Liu Tsung-yuan around 800 A.D.
But frankly this is about my mother.
 
He was in exile, mourning another
good government sunk by aristocracy.
“Flourish and ruin keep leaving each other,”
 
he wrote to an old friend, meaning, don’t suffer;
not everything was lost. Of the pine tree they
(But frankly this is all about my mother.)
 
planted together, he wrote, “cold blossoms its kingfisher-
green”.  It was a beautiful solace clearly.
“Flourish and ruin keep leaving each other,”
 
so nothing was safe either. “The bloom of youth scatters.
Grandeur crumbles.”  But the tree had a “radiant beauty”
which has everything to do with my mother.
 
Things always live between states. Some prosper.
At the end, he wanted “just clear wind for company.”
Because flourish and ruin keep leaving each other.
But listen this is also about my mother.
 
 
 
Jeff Oaks’ newest chapbook, Mistakes with Strangers, is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. His poem “Saint Wrench” was selected for Best New Poets 2012 by Matthew Dickman. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships, Jeff Oaks has published poems in Field, Bloom, Court Green, Seneca Review, Zocalo Public Square, Poemeleon, 5 a.m. and Ploughshares. His essays have appeared in My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them, and in Creative Nonfiction. He teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
 
 

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