When Cold Killed the Camphors

by Peter Huggins

The camphors shivered.
Then their leaves fell off.

Left bare and gray as trees
In that other country north

Of New Orleans, they waited
For the cut that would take them

Down. Brought in as street trees,
They gave good shade, relief

From the irredeemable heat.
I breathed their crushed leaves

To ward off a cold
Or the vagaries of pollen.

I hid in their branches
To escape Capo’s gang

When I beat them at baseball.
I covered the sidewalk with black

Spots as I smashed their berries
With my father’s new hammer.

When cold killed the camphors,
Gangs of men with chainsaws

Cut the camphors to the ground.
The smell hung in the air for weeks.

PETER HUGGINS teaches in the English Department at Auburn University.  He is the author of two collections of poems, Hard Facts (Livingston Press/University of West Alabama, 1998) and Blue Angels (River City Publishing, 2001).  His novel for middle readers, In the Company of Owls, is forthcoming from NewSouth Books.