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David Wagoner - For A Row Of Laurel Shrubs

They don't want to be your hedge,
     Your barrier, your living wall, the no-go
          Go-between between your property
And the prying of dogs and strangers. They don't

     Want to settle any of your old squabbles
          Inside or out of bounds. Their new growth
In three-foot shoots goes thrusting straight
     Up in the air each April or goes off

          Half-cocked sideways to reconnoiter
Wilder dimensions: the very idea
     Of squareness, of staying level seems
          Alien to them, and they aren't in the least

Discouraged by being suddenly lopped off
     Year after year by clippers or the stuttering
          Electric teeth of trimmers hedging their bets
To keep them all in line, all roughly

     In order. They don't even
          Want to be good-neighborly bushes
(Though under the outer stems and leaves
     The thick, thick-headed, soot-blackened

          Elderly branches have been dodging
And weaving through so many disastrous springs,
     So many whacked-out, contra-
          Dictory changes of direction, they've locked

Themselves together for good). Yet each
     Original planting, left to itself, would be
          No fence, no partition, no crook-jointed
Entanglement, but a tree by now outspread

     With all of itself turned upward at every
          Inconvenient angle you can imagine,
And look, on the ground, the fallen leaves,
     Brown, leathery, as thick as tongues, remain

          Almost what they were, tougher than ever,
Slow to molder, to give in, dead slow to feed
     The earth with themselves, there at the feet
          Of their fathers in the evergreen shade

Of their replacements. Remember, admirers
     Long ago would sometimes weave fresh clippings
          Into crowns and place them squarely on the heads
Of their most peculiar poets.

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Poet: David Wagoner
Poem: For A Row Of Laurel Shrubs
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