Every year, they explode open too fast only to be killed by some midnight frost that comes in mid March. Most years, I tell myself I will stop whatever I’m doing and walk among us, marveling at their color, shape, scent while there’s still time, but then the time evaporates, and I only find pools of fallen petals, browned at the edges.
Not this year, however. Thanks to a non-winter winter and a shockingly early spring (I mean, some redbuds are coming out already!), the magnolia trees are a blaze of pink and white, daintily unfurling all over time. So I took my camera and my feet and headed out yesterday through East Lawrence.
The tulip magnolia as well as others obviously aren’t, or at least weren’t, so suited for Kansas extremes, but I still fell in love with them when I first discovered this extraordinary blossoming tree. I could go on and on about magnolias, but my poem about them speaks most to how I feel and why I love them so much.
This is the tree that breaks
into blossom too early each March,
killing its flowers. This is the tree
that hums anyway in its pool of fallen
petals, pink as moonlight. Not a bouquet
on a stick. Not a lost mammal in the clearing
although it looks like both with its explosions
of rosy boats – illuminated, red-edged.
Not a human thing but closer to what we might be
than the careful cedar or snakeskin sycamore.
It cries. It opens. It submits. In the pinnacle
of its stem and the pits of its fruitless fruit,
it knows how a song can break the singer.
In the brass of its wind, it sings anyway.
Tree of all breaking. Tree of all upsidedown.
Tree that hurts in its bones and doesn’t care.
landing and swaying, perfume and death,
all arms and no legs. Tree that never
learns to hold back.