It’s that time again, when walking through certain Toronto neighbourhoods fills your nose with the scent of the black locust tree. These trees are all around the city, originally planted because their hard wood was useful for farm implements. They have a bad-mannered habit of spreading themselves around. You can see them, for example, sprouting between the subway tracks at Rosedale Station. But their drooping clusters of white flowers can smell sooo wonderful.
A few years ago, a poem of mine about the black locust (in fact, about the tree in the picture above) was published in Descant Magazine. Here it is:
You should have been a man’s axe handle;
or a thousand stout spade stocks, stained
by sweat and dirt and blistered skin;
muscled levers of the soil, muscled
as your bark, gnarling at winter traffic
from this loveless strip of land, between
these pilons and those gas pumps. Here,
by seed and root, you have escaped
to rattle your tarnished jewellery;
hobbled, burnt black by winter rain.
Yet, come June, you will emerge
once more; perfumed as a courtesan,
beaded as a bride. You’ll weep,
you’ll overflow, you’ll let down your milk.