They are tall herbs, really, not trees,
though they can shoot up thirty feet
if all goes well for them. Cut in cross
section they look like gigantic onions,
multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts.
Their leaves are made to be broken by the wind,
if wind there be, but the crosswise tears
they are built to expect do them no harm.
Around the steady staff of the leafstalk
the broken fronds flap in the breeze
like brief forgotten flags, but these
tattered, green, photosynthetic machines
know how to grasp with their broken fingers
the gold coins of light that give open air
its shine. In hot, dry weather the fingers
fold down to touch on each side--
a kind of prayer to clasp what damp they can
against the too much light.
Poem copyright © 2006 by Joseph Stanton. Reprinted from “A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O’ahu,” Time Being Books, 2006, with permission of the publisher.