Riven, your trunk curls
around a dark hollow--
somewhere to take shelter
to share with you
than all the time
we can remember.
For you, we are but
a brief flicker,
a blink so recent
we sound but one short note
in your long symphony,
the one you are still writing--
each word a layer
of new wood, each breath
a leaf, reaching for light.
The great cave of your trunk
stands as signature
to a bargain
struck years ago--
refusing a simple death
knotted and scarred,
yet still returning,
bud and branch, alive,
each season a phrase
in your ancient conversation
with stone and sun
and the subtle whisper
of light from distant stars.
It must have been chilly
sitting on a throne,
no central heating,
plots that freeze
on your skin. Perhaps
you expected even an oak
to bow. Even the sun
can’t cajole one
to tilt the knee. Your people
called you Gloriana.
No one is Gloriana.
Wind gets in our bones
and we think we’ll never
warm up. You wore
had many jewels. No oak
a scepter trunk,
roots that tunnel deeply,
A thousand years pass
like a single cloud.
After Joseph Fasano
You sit by the road and watch your shadow
cross the grove of oaks away from you.
The moon dappling you into someone
you no longer know. Like the simple cell
multiplied like rain like mercury.
Your hands heavy with pails of moonlight;
a white fire you fling into the night
for an answer. How you wondered why this illness
came to you and whether you will continue
or if even now some dark bird is repeating
in you its malignant fugue. You’ve been carrying
the body so long. Sometimes you want to lose it
like a dark country even though you’ll have to return,
even though memory will ice and crack its way
through. No one could look at infinity all at once,
just as there is no one to hear every prayer,
but there is a presence who watches and grows near you
like these trees, stout and florid faced. God is the stranger
you want to hold in your arms. Your desire for solitude
a delicious fruit. Maybe you need a lifetime without
a body to consider the word open or the phrase
it is late for blessings. You’ve thought of the way
you could be carried without form. The way wind
urges tumbleweed. How it works in you like a thirst
to touch the living. Death is the razor call
of the crow in these oaks. Then the wind,
if you are lucky, and its forgiving song.
Lois P. Jones
The earth’s forgotten when
someone planted acorns here
in two straight lines, anticipating shade,
a bed of soft black soil beneath the leaves
where travelers could rest,
a place for larks to nest and falcons
to scan the winter skies for prey.
In summer, overhanging leaves
and branches form a canopy.
The trunks still stand alone,
two separate line of trees
just as they always were.
Below, their white roots mingle,
less a group than one expression
of the urge to grow, a single being.
A Singular Penance
—Triggered by Moon’s “Bowthorpe Oak”
As if the act wasn’t enough—the taking
children out of school to see it, the posses
built of the dispossessed, the jeering,
the rope, the guns, the flies, the fomenting
heat of a sickly summer—postcards were
made and sold, as if cruelty was worth
commemorating, yours to keep for a nickel.
At the center is the ancient oak coerced
into something it must want no part of,
the weight of its burden heavy anyway
where it hangs from a lower-most limb as
men pose next to what their ruined hands
wrought, each wearing their best straw hats.
After walking the horses away and cleanup,
a son cut from the limb and buried, an image
branded on the eyes of his mother, the tree
persists as they do when they are allowed to,
and that region’s history becomes sealed
in a time capsule, the tree’s ring of a year’s
events, neither close to the scarred bark
nor fresh with new growth buried deep. Just
there in the middling quiet, easily forgotten.