Three trees back of the old house,
above the bend in the river.
Out our bedroom window you
can see the third, set off from the others.
Cottonwood. Bare-branched now. I can tell you
that much. But I don’t know where
they came from. Why they’re here, not downriver,
or up, nearer the bridge. Who’s carved what
hearts and arrows. I am not wise. I like
mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches. Sometimes,
for a week I wear the same shirt. Near sunset,
I say the hills are the color of smoke
and three-dollar wine. Sweetheart,
I have been thinking about these things. Sweetheart,
it’s cold out, the very air takes my breath away,
leaves a hurt in the back of my throat. It’s from all
I have done wrong. I know that. Sweetheart,
the dry limbs rattle. Beneath the ice
the river still moves.

JOE WILKINS is the author of Killing the Murnion Dogs (forthcoming from Black  Lawrence Press) and Ragged Point Road (Main Street Rag 2006), and his poems, essays, and stories appear in the Harvard Review, the Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, the Sun, Orion, Slate, and Best New Poets 2006 and 2009, among other  magazines and literary journals. He lives with his wife and son in north Iowa, where he teaches  writing at Waldorf College.