Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis) blossoms - photo © Valerie Reneé
on Flickr - noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works

The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is one of my favorite trees. Native to eastern North America from southern Ontario to northern Florida, the redbud is an early harbinger of spring.

Also known as the “Judas tree,” it is among the first to bloom. In my experience, it flowers before the cherries and magnolias in the mid-Atlantic.

The redbud is easily recognizable from its showy, magenta to fuchsia-pink flowers appearing in clusters from March to May. Rather than bursting out of the ends of branches, however, the redbud’s flowers seem to “break out” on bare stems before the leaves and sometimes on the trunk itself.

The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees such as blueberry bees, carpenter bees and mining or miner bees.

Calvin, my pitbull, is no stranger to my readers and friends. I’ve written about him before and he had quite a few followers on my Twitter account (@greenskeptic) where I often post pictures of him.

Calvin in the Wissahickon

My poem, “Redbud & Pitbull,” originated from a scene I witnessed sitting on the porch of my former house two years ago. The redbud I had planted there a few years back had still produced no flowers.

I was curious about this fact and about the frenetic activity of the mining bees, which should have been pollinating the redbud, because both seemed to be indicative of my life at the time. I was simultaneously unsettled and not yet ready to flower.

What a difference a few years makes: the redbud flowered for the first time this year — and what glorious flowers have bloomed in my life!

Here is my poem, “Redbud & Pitbull”:

 

The mining bees are emerging.

Males zipping around

tiny holes in the ground

where females are burrowing

beneath the redbud.

The males have a curious display;

more manic than romantic,

expecting a mate to think crazy

is sexy or superior.

 

I guess we all

fall prey to a little crazy

love now and again,

do something foolish,

cross a line or two.

But the bees flying too close

to the ground are just frantic,

can’t imagine they’d make

suitable mates.

 

They course and dive and zip

(yes, that’s the best word for it, zip),

while females wait below the redbud.

My pitbull Calvin watches

the mining bees swirling

above and into the ground

beneath the redbud. He thinks,

Who or what are these (things)

buzzing and drilling in the dirt?

 

Truth is, the mining bees

–neither food nor friend—

pay him little interest.

Now Calvin grows bored,

slopes over to the sidewalk

flopping down in the sun.

The redbud’s waxy leaves

glisten in the same sun,

green edging into red.

 

Calvin is mottled, piebald,

brindle and white with a big brown

eye patch that makes people smile.

He’s a lover, not a fighter.

He cares little why the redbud’s shock

of fuchsia flowers, like scales or

a rash running up the limbs hasn’t shown.

He has no word for flowers

and little time for bees.

 

–Scott Edward Anderson

P.S. This poem, along with “Calvin’s Story,” appeared in Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology, published by Salmon Press. If you love dogs and poetry, you must have this book – it makes a great Mother’s Day gift too!

Painting by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave, November 2002

JUVENILIA

1: compositions produced in the artist’s or author’s youth
2: artistic or literary compositions suited to or designed for the young
Origin of JUVENILIA
Latin, neuter plural of juvenilis
First Known Use: 1622

As the Wikipedia entry for Juvenilia explains: “the term was first used in 1622 in George Wither‘s poetry collection Ivvenilia.  Later, other notable poets, such as John Dryden and Alfred Lord Tennyson came to use the term for collections of their early poetry. Jane Austen‘s earlier literary works are also known by the name of Juvenilia. An exception to retrospective publication is Leigh Hunt’s collection Juvenilia, first published when he was still in his teens.”

One of my earliest extant poems, written when I was 15, came to my attention recently. The poem is called “Snow Sleeping November.” I was surprised by its language and resonance, although some of it seems over-written and bears too heavy an influence of Whitman, Frost, Hopkins, and perhaps Stephen Crane.

I can still see the cabin in New York’s Finger Lakes that provided its inspiration.

Here is my poem,

“Snow Sleeping November”

 

I realize the briskness of this November eve,

the quiet, complacency of stiff snow,

the darkness of full‑breasted snowclouds,

all of us retaining warmth

like soapstone.

 

My cup is full of hot water

the wood in the fire

gleams like cat’s eyes & gives-off a

sun‑like warmth‑‑radiant, welcoming.

 

Short days & long, frozen nights,

girding my boots

for the crisp winterchill,

wind driving drafts up my nose.

The sparkling, icy water

and trees stiff in the dead weight

of snow‑leaden branches.

 

Poets crawling at the clouds

pulling snow groundfast‑‑

Those November trees!

 

–Scott Edward Anderson

 

The painting is a sketch by my friend Lisa Hess Hesselgrave from my personal collection. You can see more work by Lisa at LisaHesselgrave.com