The chainsaw started just after morning traffic thinned
when the tree surgeons came to euthanize the Hickory
that had a hundred years on the house over which it
leaned in a way that always seemed protective, until
the sap stopped rising and the leaves hung limp and
the lean felt like trouble to those inside the house, and
they knew the time had come to let it go, but like a
milky-eyed hound who can’t find the exit, it needed help.
So the men came to bring the old thing down; two with
ropes who kept to the ground and one wearing spurs who
walked up the trunk and belayed each limb before the saw
sliced like a scalpel through seasons enfolded in the flesh,
ages shouldered within forest thick with poplars and oaks
long before the road was cut and houses planted beneath
the boughs, years when deer wove the underbrush with
scent and boys on the hunt with trigger fingers twitching;
fifteen decades of cradling the nests of those who made
their homes high, raising young on the bounty of nuts
and air, of crooking slender twigs like fingers to choirs
of birds who came to sit and sing,
Here this colossus has stood; witness to the rhythm of
time as only a tree can be. Now it bolts upright, the lean
corrected as the crown is cut and the man with the saw,
lashed to the top, rides the thrashing tree in extremis,
until it calms and ropes carry the crown down and the
singers and nest builders chitter and sigh in counterpoint
to the lament of the neighboring giants that toss their
heads with sorrow and shower the ground with leaves.
© Dana Hughes 10.28.16
Exquisite grief managed with such dignity. I love your use of quatrains, each holding may attention and keeping me from rushing ahead, as though to give the old Hickory the patient respect it had earned and deeply deserved. And such respect it is: “seasons enfolded in the flesh/ ages shouldered within forest thick with poplars….” This is really lovely.
Might be in your top three. Definitely submit this one. Love it so much.