Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Essence
Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Today’s seasonal poem by Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle grew out of tapping maple trees and boiling sap on his stovetop. “What stayed with me,” he says, “is how long it took to get to syrup, and how sweet the syrup could be.”
Essence By Stuart Kestenbaum
We hand-crank the drill through the maple’s bark, pound the metal tap into light inner layerswhere the sap begins to flow, this life blood that will make the leaves unfurlin another two months, delicately lined like the hands of a newborn.But now we step over last year’s leaves and the year’s before thatin patchy snow to gather what we have taken from the tree, the gallons of sapwe boil down on our stove top, moisture running off the kitchen windowsas we get down to its essence, over three gallons to make a cup of syrup, so sweeta transformation, I can’t believe I could have been a part of it. A world that doesn’tend in vinegar, ashes and regret, but in a sweetness that rises every daybetween earth and sky, traveling from the hole in the side of the tree to our joyous mouths.
Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2003 by Stuart Kestenbaum. Reprinted from House of Thanksgiving, Deerbrook Editions, 2003, by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-228-8263.