Elegy For a Tree

Something I learn, and something to see,
A burgeoning leaf on a living tree.
Born from buds, branch to limb, stoically strong,
Garments of green, but not so long.
Breathing life to the open air,
Where other leaves branch in pair
May live; and at autumns call
Wearing red―poised, waiting to fall.

Has not this tree a deed to do,
Growing long a century or two?
Shall not these limbs, in the end
Hold wisdom with a truth to ascend?
Wisdom is in the leaves all summer long,
In a bird’s tremulous sonorous song.
To glimpse a trunk so straight and proud,
That it sheds its leaves upon a cloud.

To think, here is all my grief
The tree no mightier than the leaf,
With reaching roots and shapely crown―
Long it stands before coming down.
The ethereal top, I wished to climb,
This sylvan sentinel―proud in its prime,
That hears the wind and waits its turn,
To listen and know from this tree I learn,
That time can weaken the solid wood,
The tallest trunk that ever stood.
In time, without a dream to keep
Remembers the earth where its roots run deep,
When winter comes and all’s asleep.

              Betula Paperifera

Late November. A distant sun
Gives no heat, though it’s light still bright
To give my birches their recognition.
The season changes; a cold wind sweeps
Black ripples across my leaf-strewn lake.
The land has fallen deeper into silence
And lines of shadows grow longer,
More empty. Winter waits, stays away.
It is when the last leaves have fallen
And the blue jay alights on a white branch
To give my trees a placid resplendence.
I wonder, however about those old pines
That stand so tall and straight, but far away
From blue water that the birches look into;
I sometimes overhear what’s in their boughs,
Those esoteric whispers sifting down.
If trees were jealous, then I think the pines
Were jealous of birches that guard the lake.
Oh pines hold their green forever, and not 
So even that, they’ve always held a high
Estate amongst the forest community
That’s now vapid and grey. A silence falls
On sleeping trees and frozen land, except
For the pines that bicker in the booming wind.
A November birch, white and black against
The blue—a blue reserved for sky and water;
For this is what a late autumn can do.
The white trees, soon to disappear
When snow lets down across the land
And once again, pines gain back their glory
From trees that cannot hold their own in snow
For this is what a winter snow can do.

           Looking In

I stood on the edge of the wood
And looked long and silently in.
Don’t know for sure whether I should
Enter— Had I forgot where I had been?
So I listened there to the wind,
And it told me to venture in.

I found coolness in its’ verdant hood,
I found peace in the touching trees;
Where for a moment, long I stood,
I heard the leaves talk in the breeze. 
I felt at home—so at ease. 

The Now Forgotten Orchard

In a now forgotten orchard
Where people no longer tread
To pick the fruit from bended limb;
For some still grow and some now dead.

A silent lament, in this old grove
I give for the once fruitful tree;
Now languished and of barren crown
As gnarly graves in a grassy sea.

Man’s left it idle and disused,
No longer the plentiful host.
Returning back to natures ways
For this the birds are happy most.

Some still bear the dangling fruit
A burden for some to bear;
With weakened limbs that strain and bend
To earth and her eternal care.

            The Good Maple

I come to the old maple amid the meadow,
That venerable good tree with its voice.
I love to listen where the wind breaths,
Its warm breath through the dancing leaves;
Eyes closed, listening―listening.

And a sweet smell of meadow grass,
Sweet clover and alfalfa freshly cut,
That the wind draws fresh across the warming earth;
Eyes closed, I draw in its freshness,
Sweet, so sweet this good earth.

I know all the shadows of that good maple,
Where the sun has yet to find,
Where the crickets make it known;
And the summer birds sing their song of life.
I settle in the tall grass―lucid I lay,
Eyes closed, listening―listening.

And in my solace and silence of my mind,
I find a peace in this place,
That only the good tree does provide.
I watch the lazy clouds pass above me,
In the midst of that quiet,
And I find a sense and sensibility
To live simply on this earth.
I closed my eyes, listening―listening.

The Reflection

That old cottonwood tree leaned eagerly
Out over the blue-green lagoon,
As if to look down and see its reflection―
To prove twice its ample crown of green
And immeasurable timelessness.
We showed up once again and gave it
Our gratitude with greetings and salutations,
That I like to give to such a venerable thing.
Its rattling leaves spoke to us in the
Slight breeze, as if to say (in its own way)
“Just hanging around again today.”

Together, me and my boy beneath
Its dappled shade, where light danced,
Within the wide-brimmed branches.
A book of “Good Poems”, I liked
To read to it in the coolness of shadow,
While my son and his illustrious rod and reel
Cast the line and worm-wrapped hook
Into the world of liquid branches and leaves.
The red bobber, as if to alight on a branch,
Where ripples ran, spreading out in concentric rings,
From the reflection of the tree and fractured cerulean blue;
Where up was down, and down was
Not what was up that summer day.

I read again from Garrison Keillor’s
Book of “Good Poems” quiet, content.
My son with sudden exuberance exclaims,
“Got something on my line Dad―it’s a keeper I think!”
The red bobber slipped into the blue-green impoundment;
The line taught, the rod curled and strained,
By the weight of what lie beneath the algae and lily pads.
I saw the concentration, the excitement on his face;
The battle was on between the boy and fish
Water bubbling, swirling, a sudden emergence
of the fish: large-mouthed, dark-eyed denizen
Crosssing the threshold between its watery world
And into the dry world it got hooked into;
Gasping in capitulation in the suffocating air.
And that old cottonwood with its leaves trembling
As if to applaud with its lowing hangin branch
Like a hand over the mirrored water 
Monofilamnt, snagged bobbers and rusty hooks,
Laced and wound in its craggy fingers.
The show was over-the bass we admired
Sending it back into its blue-green world.
A few ripples spread out,
Then all was calm and silent.

A Night in the Pines

Our small tent staked like some sylvan claim,
Within the fragrant litter of pine needles,
Amid the rows of red pine reaching toward heaven
In the still night under a star-soaked sky.

The birds went silent with the setting sun,
Save for the whippoorwill’s repeated riffs.
We came to applaud their sonorous song,
Somewhere out beyond night’s dark curtain.

A yellow moon, full in form ascended;
Her lambent light sifted through the trees.
Feeling the freshness from a settling dew,
Fresh were the feelings I carried for you.

The feeling from our fire staved off the cold chill,
And closeness we found was more than some warmth,
We felt in the fire’s flickering flame.
Was it still there―was it still the same.

The whippoorwill waned and went within the night
Two shadows danced in the warm fire light.

The Calling

No stranger to this woods—man of nature
Who finds solace amidst the sleeping trees.
A forest brook reflects the colored leaves,
Like a familiar old colorature.

The season was his to call it his own:
The changing light, like the leaves, and his life too,
How like the current it goes; he saw through
His reflection next to a weathered stone.

He liked how the moving water made him look,
Nature’s make-over had given this old sage
A handsome face from ripples of old age;
A gift of youth given back by the brook.

Nothing too great, something’s considered simple,
In song of birds (He knew them all)
Where small bits of form within the call,
He’d listen for the hidden parable;

And now, follows the water stride for stride,
Contemplates how far he’d come; had he known
The many ways water can call one home,
Would be as it was almost prophesied?

Ode to a March Wind

There is no other sound like a March wind,
Blowing through limbs of leafless trees.
Such a sound sweeping across the dried leaves
And the roar and clacking branches breach the top
Of limbs in sap-filled trees with bulging buds;
And even the sunlight displays a different light:
Unfiltered, intense, unbroken, dancing
With shadows swaying on the forest floor.

A pileated’s cacophonous calling,
Resounds somewhere beyond the realm of sight,
Within this sylvan solace of spring;
As a whirl of wind sets dried leaves to light.
There’s no other sound that I’ve heard before,
Like that of a March wind’s fervent roar.

A Thrush in the Evening Woods

The twilight shrouds the darkened wood
And dew lies in a silver mist,
Sifting softly through leaves and grass
Dripping off laden plants it kissed.

A Thrush has come again to sing,
Her throaty flute-like song
Within the forest dark and dim;
Where shadows sweep and move along.

I’ve come to listen by the edge
To stand before the forest gloom.
To hear the hidden thrush perform,
From deep within her sylvan room.

Knowing if I dared to enter
And find her on her woody throne.
A trespasser, I would become,
And I’d be left to silence—and alone.

The light still lingers from the sun,
That had just settled in the west.
I wish to hear her one last song
Before she slumbers in her nest.

For only then I’d be content
And begin my way back to home.
Through the drowsy dusk of night
Through the fragrant fields I’d roam.

Those Revealing Forms

Wintertime trees, oh how the tree shows,
Like that of a women without her clothes.
Slender form and shapely crown,
Spring leaves reveal her summer gown.
Autumn’s bright colors shows all her fashion
Winter strips her down again—‘tis my passion.

        Winter Trees

Stout stark skeletons
In a frozen earth.
Reaching silhouettes
Against a plum sky.

Archaic fingers
Clicking in the wind;
A lonely cadence
That befalls the night.

Upon the horizon,
A jeweled Venus
Looms over leafless crowns
Where winds whisper sleep.

The cool huntress rises
Diana’s lambent light
Obscures the lovely Queen
From the sleeping trees.

An Orchard in White

Amid the sunlit meadow stands
The rows and rows of flowered tree,
And through the season, spring demands
Orchard’s to bloom for all to see.

The springtime orchards come to bring,
Branches bursting in heady hue.
Orioles flit by on colored wing
And fragrant scent from blossoms new.

To gaze upon the isles of trees,
Where deep within the whitened veil
And hear the sound of buzzing bees
Where dandelions dot the ground like Braille.

The days of bloom are brief and swift,
Soon to lose their elegant show.
From stirring winds the blossoms lift
And petals fall like gentle snow.

            Twilight of a Dream

There I was again in the rainy glittered
Twilight; I saw her standing at the edge
Of a slow stream in an azure forest,
The ancient leaves all around us,
Rattled and rustled from a warm wind
(A druid’s dance to this sylvan sonata)
And the luke-warm mist of night,
Brought a closeness only night could give.

I saw her in a dream again,
Someone I saw awake years ago;
She appeared without a sound
In the soft gloam of early evening.
A white gown flowed from her slender form,
She was like the glow of a late summer’s dew.
A silvery stream in a rain soaked woods,
A shaft of moonlight fell upon her hair;
And to hear that far-off whippoorwill
Somewhere behind night’s purple legion,
Brought serenity only a night could give.

Her white arms reaching, no one there to hold;
I knew, somehow, she forever belonged
To the other side of twilight and mist.
I then lost her in the sweep of shadow,
And the bright realm of day broke the night,
And a sudden awakening had covered
The remains of her—nothing remained
But the bright bronzed reality of day,
And a tree, before me, with outstretched limbs.

           Wind song

The wind is nature’s song—
Let it serenade you,
Harmonizing with the leaves,
A symphony of wind-tossed waves
Crashing to the shore.
Listen to the wind,
‘Tis nature’s greatest score.

      Summer Side of Life

I used to think as birds take wing
They’d sing through life, so why can’t we?
To learn from this—you begin to see
It’s a simple thing in an offering.
So I’ll take some clouds—I’ll take some rain
To enjoy the warmth when the sun shines again.

  The Answer

My love for life, I must reveal,
To live for love and share it,
I live for what is real;
Love and life—how could I ever spare it?

The Friendship Tree

I am writing a poem as you can see,
About the wonderful tree called the friendship tree.
A tree whose roots run deep and long,
And a trunk that's straight and very strong.
And at the top of this lovely tree,
Are a set of limbs that mean much to me,
There is faith and hope and charity
And kindness and goodness for you and me.
And concern for others will have to be
The strongest limb on the friendship tree.
You can speak of wealth and power and such,
But, really to me, they don't mean as much
As a friendly smile, or a helping hand
For these are the finest of things in this land.
So my friends, will you do this favor for me?
Come and sit in the shade of the friendship tree."
The Woodcutters Dream

The cabin door groaned on rusting hinges,
As he crossed the threshold into a world of white.
The clank of the metal latch upon closing,
Set his hanging doorbells to gently ring.
Squinting from the new fallen snow so bright,
He thought to himself, it’s a cold morning alright.

The familiar feel of his axe handle,
Fit ever so tightly into his buckskin glove.
He turned his shoulder to the wind so swift,
That swirled the snow in a great upward lift.
The back forty woods, he could only think of,
To hear his axe sing, for him this was love.

He set a pace only the snow would allow,
And gave a snug pull to his red-flanneled hood.
The rising sun warmed his well-seasoned face,
Though the wind carried a chill to hurry his pace;
To the shelter of the back forty wood,
He thought, for there my axe may do some good.

The woods were silent, save for a Blue Jay’s call,
And the crunch of snow with each eager tread.
Shadows from the trees pin-stripped the ground,
Swaying slowly on the snow with no sound.
The dawn sky slipped out of her dazzling red,
While a few lingering leaves rattled overhead.

He arrived at the woodpile as he did before,
To his stacks of oak piled four by four by eight.
Upon an old hardened hickory stump, he left sit,
A well-seasoned log waiting to be split.
A deep breath of air, his lungs did inflate,
And the oak shattered from the ax heads weight.

Great blocks of oak were split through the core,
By the strength in his shoulders and the good of his back;
The steam from his breath clouded the cold winter air,
And formed ice crystals on his red mustache hair.
The sound of axe in wood, pierced the silence with a crack,
Stirred-up memories of life as a young lumberjack.

The forest he loved to be, as well he should,
Most of his life was spent amongst the trees,
A kindred spirit of the earth and land;
A task he loved with his old axe in hand.
To cut and split the hardened oak with ease,
As wood lay scattered all round his knees.

The late afternoon shadows faded in the woods,
And the approaching clouds hinted more snow.
He set his axe down to watch a crow take flight,
And thought, best head back before day turns to night.
Out of the stillness of the woods he did go,
And into the wind that continued to blow.

A good day it was back deep in the woods,
But now he headed for the cabin to retire,
And heat the stew in the cast iron pot
From yesterday’s rabbit he had shot.
He removed his wet woolen attire,
And sat contented by the crackling fire.

His cabin was built sound to keep him warm,
Miles from nowhere - to him it was somewhere.
The stove light competed with the firelight;
Both gave him comfort from the cold dark night.
The dancing flames, he couldn’t help but stare,
And drifted into slumber without any care.

And dreamed he was a tall and solid oak,
Up against a mighty wind, southward bound,
Trying to snap his boughs and pull at his bark,
Until the tall oak was weary and stark.
But, still held fast to the familiar ground,
While the other trees fell all around.

The north wind relented and ceased its stroke,
The weary wind went calm and spoke:
“How can you still be standing there so strong?
How can you withstand my tempest so long?
How can you still be standing stubborn oak?
The oak said, “My strength can never be broke.”

In his dream, how strange now to be an oak,
And so the oak tree said: “I’m great in girth-
You may shake all my limbs and make me sway,
Blow night and day, then strip my leaves away.
But, I have my roots spread deep in the earth
Growing stronger since the day of my birth.”

Through many seasons and stormy weather,
I stood my ground through so many a year;
Several hundred years, I stood tall and proud,
Held in high regard amongst the forest crowd.
There’s only one thing I have come to fear,
Is the woodcutter and his axe drawing near.”

The strong woodcutter eyed the stately oak,
And said, “My word, you sure are a tall one.
I sure can see how much wood you may bring,
To when I swing my axe, and make it sing.
I see you there reaching high to the sun,
It’ll take me a week until I’m done.”

He stood before the oak with axe in hand,
Then a sense of affinity crept in.
True feelings of respect, he now dealt,
And a strange familiar feeling he felt.
He heard the oak in the whispering wind.
“We are one – proud in our prime – we are kin”.

Both living creatures created by God;
One a provider, the other to take.
He stood before him, then laid his axe down,
To admire his girth, four feet around.
He no longer desired, for the trees sake,
To fell the old oak for his wood to make.

The oak tree looked down and gave a nod,
With a feeling he didn’t want to misconstrue,
And said, “Until this dream, I wasn’t sure
How all things seem one, simple, and pure.
But, now I’ve found – thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew.

The log shifted in the stove, and he awoke;
Still in his chair away from his bed;
The cabin glowed from the waning firelight,
The wind moaned outside in the winter night.
He thought about the dream still in his head
And a poem came to him and it said:

I am writing a poem as you can see,
About the wonderful tree called the friendship tree.
A tree whose roots run deep and long,
And a trunk that’s straight and strong;
And at the top of this sturdy tree,
Are a set of limbs that mean so much to me.
There is faith and hope and charity;
And kindness and goodness for you and me.
And concern for others will have to be,
The strongest limb on the friendship tree.
You may speak of wealth, power and such,
But, really to me, don’t mean as much,
As a friendly smile, or a helping hand,
For these are the finest things in this land.
So my friends, will you do this favor for me?
Come sit in the shade of the friendship tree.

The End

                The Oaks

Sylvan sentinels, venerable the oaks,
Stately crowns, stout in trunk and limb.
Born to earth, reaching to heaven’s thunder stroke,
Spread open like the wings of Seraphim.
Eminent in domain and understory
Our metaphors of power, strength and glory;
Of ironies for pencils, paper and allegories

Even to the wind the oak gains respect,
Holding their own to the breath of Thor;
Taking the brunt of blows direct.
Limbs may bend―not break from the tempest’s roar.
Nothing short or tall comes from it
That the oaks exude the proper spirit.