I once wrote a poem about a tree.
(I didn’t have much to write about back then.)
I walked past it every day in my neighborhood,
towering, gloriously majestic
in its old age.
It rested like Grandmother Willow,
presiding over all the new blooms,
watching as new life sprouted over and over again
as it sat perennially without growth.
It was spring
the day I was walking down the street,
and two blocks away
I could hear its dying leaves
rustling together like cracked bells—
the sound flat,
though somehow cheerful and welcoming.
It was soon after,
in the spring,
when I turned the corner
and it wasn’t there.
The scene was almost gruesome.
Limbs scattered across the lawn.
Sawdust, bark, and branches
strewn on the sidewalk,
its stump carved into angles like a symbol,
as if the executioner had left his calling card.
Maybe I didn’t mean much to that tree,
but as an aging man
in a town of renewed youth,
that tree was a reminder that
some things are meant to stick around;
that there’s so much beauty with time and age.
It symbolized home.
At the end of a run, I’d see it
just as I’d hit the intersection
and know I’d made it to the end.
After too many drinks
(on too many Friday nights)
it was my beacon home.
I may have even puked on it once.
But it grew too big for its plot
and the city wasn’t willing to risk it,
so my angel of the night met her fate.
And I was so angry
But felt at a loss to retrieve
The justice I’d hoped to seek.
We’ll always try to find meaning in loss,
even when we know
there’s no consolation in the truth.
I had never really connected to nature
the way I did when I saw
the emptiness that lay in the sight
of that tree stump.
I never even realized how much
I had relied on its presence
until it was no longer there.
I wish I could say that I
started being more conscious of the world around me
or that I began to really appreciate nature more,
but that’s not my story.
But what I did do though, is
I thought, maybe I should be more like that tree.
Maybe I should be more grounded,
spreading my roots, and
breaking some foundations.
Instead of always blaming cynicism,
I should allow my maturity to
grow into wisdom for a new generation,
and spread my branches to reach
new levels of understanding.
I decided it was time
to turn paper into a voice
and turn my voice into a bark
to match my bite.
And I’m still working on it,
because I don’t want to be left a stump.
I don’t want my words to be left for dead.