Michael Collier




As large as a one-footed elephant,
its several trunks and tusks,
bent landward, leafed out and petaled.

And in its hundred, two-hundred years of age,
bows not by kneeling on that leg
but by the troubling weight of wind
and its own heavy, splintered crown
while a great palmetto ear, like a burned-out
sponge, lies on the ground.

That’s how he looked this morning,
a thrashing, fissured monument
pecked by birds that nominate his skin,
a boundary tree, cleaved by lightning,
lost to what it bound,
an insect-ravaged Ozymandias,
home to bat-wing squirrels,
whose frieze blurs all the heroic details.

“Jesus Christ,” a neighbor urged, “cut it down.”


MICHAEL COLLIER’s most recent collection of poems is An Individual History (2013). The Ledge (2000) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland and is the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.


Read more by Michael Collier

Poem in TriQuarterly
Poem in The Chronicle
Poem at PBS.org
Another poem at PBS.org
Lots of poems at Poetry Foundation