POETRY I BY ROBERT WRIGLEY THE MOST PATRIOTIC MAN IN TEXAS It’s the all wrong, rigid liquidity of the mountain maple tree’s new spring foliage that draws me down the slope to see it. Surely it’s dying: every leaf encycsted with gallsswollen, massive, tumorous, and seemingly still growing. The branches dangle: up close, they’re an ache; from a distance, a half-molten tree, a chyme of greenery and acid air, an awful thing the wind can’t move. I should fetch the saw and take it down just so, the world seemed back at the house: more news of the recent war, the usual foolishness of fools with power. I remember thinking: Maverick, we need you now. Cantankerous, left-wing, legendary Texas lawyer, he helped me boy soldier, COleave the army if not the war behind. The day I headed home, he said, “Goddamit, don’t ever let me catch you being a conservative:’ He did not smile saying this. It was October, 1971. I didn’t think there was much hope for the nation, nor did I really care, which he must have sensed. Maverick shook his great head. In San Antonio, the Alamo reliably drew a sort of faithful son. “Not everybody who’s brave has to die for this,” he said, and I nodded, though I knew I was not brave, knew what courage I’d mustered would have come in part from him. I owe him, and now he’s dead, and it’s only through the tributes of others that I know he was childless which I think is half trueand how very much he loved the trees. Therefore, because afterward I never laid eyes on the man in his life; because after my last day in Texas I never thanked him again and I am ashamed for that; because I also love the trees, and, finally, because he believed in some mysterious way beyond the national madness, I will say that I too believe, though mostly in people like him. And in trees, yes, trees. And speaking of trees; I would say that, as Maverick would have known, there have been galls like these before, on many trees, and someone at the very next opportune fall took out all the dead wood they could, believing the roots at least were sound and deep, as they are, no doubt, even in Texas, where a tree like this one might well come back the very next spring, without, let’s say, delay. ROBERT WRIGLEY teaches at the University of Idaho. His most recent book is Lives of the Animals Naomi Shihab Nye FEBRUARY 24, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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