by Richard D Croft
Thursday, April 25, 2002
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My mark on the tree
warped like print on stretched putty.
Late August, blue dusk, I climbed out my window --
my brow white with moonglow, --
and I sat there -- sat there listening
to the wind filling
the tree, leaves heaving
with breath, the sound
of fire but cool, the ground
wet with dew already and, crowned
in the blonde hair of my youth,
I thought I found some core truth
to all of this. My father had the night before
tied my tooth to the bathroom door.
So little yet uprooted; there would be more.
Scores in the molding of the bedroom door
revealed how far I'd come,
till every inch gained began to feel a loss of one.
This is where I grew up, this is home.
Bald as a Krishna now and fifty-four
I count thirty odd rings inward
paring my life to my father's cancer.
His breathless trunk too well I remember...
and remember too his knotty eyes and withered limbs --
nothing left but a shell of him.
I kissed his crown and touched his wrist
but no fingers did bloom from that fist.
Like a tree with black rot spread within,
his shape -- held only by a frail bark of skin --
was lifeless as a month old carnival balloon's.
Out the window a pillow of cloud smothered the old moon.
The tree sighed -- a groan that rose from the roots;
a week later I came home with a flag and a bag full of soot.
So today, under a September sky that seems the same --
ghetto gray and threatening rain --
I strap on my immaculate work boots
and tromp through the young shoots
of flowers weeds and trees --
so many yet unnamed to me.
The gaps between tree rings,
like the spaces between memories,
widen as the beaches of history
erode. It'll be thirty years next week -- thirty...
thirty years grown over me, like a coat of ivy --
and so heavy an obligation.
But physical burden is a necessary distraction,
for it too is a great healer -- as wisdom and clarity
most often come from the periphery.
The days when all was gain are gone,
so I work until the ache of being alone
has a friend in my likewise aching back;
And I look to my hands, cracked
with time lines -- and my face,
scarred as a moon with traces
of myriad collisions of times and places.
I lathed the handle from a branch struck by a fit
of late August lightening, cutting a slit
and hammering the steel wedge into it.
The man with the clipboard and the Ford Ranger
warned that the roots endangered
my foundation's integrity.
So now I'm chopping away at my history,
hoping to salvage the rest of me.
But it is a somber thing, chipping
through years of growth and rings of being.
I was left the house when my mom died.
It was easier the second time. I was dignified.
No threats to God, no cigarettes, or unreasonable pride.
Trying to find the acorn in the oak, I cry as if dicing an onion;
they planted this tree when they made me and I'm closing in on a reunion
The rings shrink and seem to blur.
There is no sense of order
so close to the singularity,
but an increased density of
time, a unity of ryhme, a blending
of lines, as sap drips from the wedge --
as the years are magnified by tears, and the yard --
now littered with pale chips, and
my coat too, covered in her white curls.
Sweat-drenched, eyes aching with dust,
there is a deep groan, a creaking.
The tree's shadow shrinks into itself and
disappears with a tremendous crash, the ground
shaking with the girth
of what has fallen.
I eye the ax, amazed...
such a little part
of the whole, when severed from it,
can bring the whole down --
like a cell that forgets its purpose --
and I kneel down beside
the old tree
and begin counting
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|Reviewed by C. Gourlay
|Pieces of me have lived your words and so many of my thoughts seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to those you have portrayed. Sometimes I read poems while others it is the poem who reads me - and I suspect the latter is true in this case. Your ability to touch is clear. I am moved.|
|Reviewed by Afrika Abney
|Reviewed by anne cunningham
|Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader)
|Very wise for thirty years. Reflective piece full of lovely memories, and loss. Very good work you do. ~E|
|Reviewed by Masarat Daud (Reader)
|Reviewed by DeWayne Spell
|Must our history always threaten our foundation? With age, comes the knowledge of our frailty
Well done...I feel every word, Richard