Poem: ‘Friend Poem’

Rachel Richardson maintains a friendship through poetry.

smoky forest

In the past few smoke-filled summers, I have wanted to write love poems to California’s wild landscapes, and they keep becoming love poems to my friends. This poem is for Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, whom I met in the Olympic Valley 20 years ago. We have been writing poems on opposite sides of the country since then (she lives in upstate New York), and recent years have found us both taking solace in trees and the sturdiness of our friendship.

This poem appears in the Summer 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

I’m thinking of your Jeffrey pines—
how you made them yours
by your rapture
at their smell. Butterscotch.
You haven’t been
back to the fire-carved
landscape, manzanita clawing its way
between rocks, a dead trunk
of a mountain pine
clinging to its living
twin, tiny pink succulents clustered
at a rock seam.
The granite rises like
a bowl around the lake (Echo)
and voices carry from the water
hundreds of feet below.
When did everyone
start to feel so far away?
This dry wind ominous, the aspen’s leaves
anxiously fluttering, gathering
the light, fluttering.
Remember those trees by
the highway, straighter than the rest,
standing a bit aloof?
One day we realized
they were cell towers.
I don’t actually know
what anyone is thinking.
Tell me more
about the hundred-year-old apple trees
on the land you bought
outside of town. Tell me how it smells
in fall. Tell me about the rain.•

Rachel Richardson is the author of two books of poems, Hundred-Year Wave (2016) and Copperhead (2011), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press.
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