Cedars of Lebanon

::: The poem “Cedars of Lebanon” was anthologized
in Best American Poetry 2015 :::
James Merrill said, “In life, there are no perfect affections.”  Derrick’s poems examine the ever-complicated dynamics of devotion to the sacred and profane; and, he keeps it real with a whimsical attention to detail where the mind falls victim to what the heart follows. ~Erica Dawson


Let us talk of…what then—
are we that silent moment on the stage
when kings are out of rules and fools of puns?
Remember crossing the bridges by the sea,
you a stranger here, asking
the name of the tree ruffled with purple?


It was knowledge, a kind of lording
over another, as when sunning at a pool,
you dipped one leg in the water.
As if you were given all its crowns.


Before you drifted into my life—waiting
in the wings—I said no to so much.
Nudging me, you said, Please
put it in your mouth. You do this to me.


Kings wait to see who will kneel.
I’ve forgotten my line. Is this when I
abdicate the throne or bruise you
with my scepter?
I beg
your pardon. I would resign the crown
a thousand times to kneel at your feet.
What kind of king am I? I’m just as lost as you.


Drifter, stardust, little marsh-light,
you are known by so many names:
Bassanio, Gaveston…
Try a new skin:
friar, courtier, dominance,
submission—it’s all foreplay, roleplay.
We bow. The curtain falls. Another night.



His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as
Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. –Song of Songs 5:15

If you can see them, the snow-covered
cedars, crowning the hills, come

to the cabin between the two tallest,
their branches hooked

with the tantrums of crows.


Will you find me without the pink and blue hydrangeas?

Will you find me without the spikes of St. Augustine grass?

Will you find me with the bloodied snow—where some frail thing was



If you find a stag and kill it,

throw its hind legs over your shoulder
and drag it to my cabin
between the tallest cedars.

Its blood on the snow is my voice pursuing you.


I sleep on a cedar bed
with red fur blankets,

the wood of the gates of paradise,
wood which hid the naked couple.

Wood of shame. Wood of passage.

If you come, I’ll press my hand
to your chest. A key

to the fittings of a lock.


You knock at the door.
Break several cedar branches

and dust off the snow.
Bring in seven for the bedroom,

seven for the fireplace,
then rest your head on my chest—

even bare
branches can make a kind of summer.


Photo credit: Nick Kenrick . / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA