Japanese Maple Tree

This is the tree whose leaves are red
on spindly black branches in spiky clumps
their new buds look like raspberries
skewered on the dark extended twigs—
something sinister in the way
they pierce the sky and sometimes
the new growth looks like clotted blood
and in one of them a blackbird sits
and occasionally croaks out a natch-natch cry
as a soft breeze stirs his tail feathers and
if I made a cry like a natch-natch cry
I would make it in displeasure.
His beak is sharp, like the twigs of the tree.
Somehow his eye is both dark and bright.
He watches me watching him, wings half-raised.
He lifts one foot, replaces it there.
And the leaves at his feet are red, blood-red.
And here spring is neither soft nor green.
And there are no blossoms or finches or jays.
And the branches are black, the leaves are red.
And the blackbird cocks his head and stares.


Cut Yellow Flowers

I think that I will wait tonight
after the sun has set and the last lights
turned off in every house on the block
and watch by the streetlight slanting
through the high window to see
what in the orange half-light
twelve tulips might do.
As light fades, a painter’s eye might see
how in the yellow of the petals
there is violet, blue, and red.
How in the leafy shadows
burnt umber and mahogany.
How in the dark, the flowers cannot
stretch up towards the light and so
reel and sway and shift and cast
beneath them moving, mottled shadows.


Rachel Aviva Burns is a writer living and working in New York City. She is a recipient of Harvard’s Edward Eager Memorial Prize for Poetry, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including the Atlanta Review, Florida English, and Eclectica.