Tree Along River

by Eric Chaet

One tree, among many, of several kinds,
along the bank of a quiet river,
one quiet night, just before winter.
I don’t know what kind of tree it is, or how old.
Its leaves are fallen away for the year.

As old people look to a child—
as tho there’s something wrong
in the asymmetric wear & tear, stiffness, scars,
attitude of stoicism in a world far beyond control.

Will tender leaves unfold from buds, next spring—
each etched with perfect river & tributaries?
Will new branches emerge from crooks of old branches?

Odd formation—two trunks, not twins—
twists, curves—branches out of each trunk—
branches out of branches—thicker, finer.
Every sort of angle, tangle—denser, rarer—
ramifications mysterious, hidden roots mysterious—
all—trunks, roots, branches—emergent from a seed.

How affected by years of nights, & years of days
of 8-minute, 100-million-mile light,
every day a slightly different angle, clear, clouds, haze?
How affected by stars, moon, headlights, meteors, comets,
by being observed or unnoticed by passers-by?
By summers, winters, springs, falls—storms & idylls—
droughts, floods—insects, cocoons, nests, eggs?
By rains & snows filtering thru its branches,
darkening the grey-brown bark, or coating one side white?

How affected by perchings of birds, large & small—
& nervous, tenuous, then rushing explorations of squirrels?
How affected by the river just below,
or by cars on the now-silent road, day after day?

Is it decomposing, vacantly unaware?
Or, in some inhuman way, musing back on its experience?
&, if it’s musing, does that musing affect anybody else?

Or is it gathering itself for some effort it must yet make
to fulfill some inscrutable purpose, next spring, summer, fall—
or during the next growing season, or the next—or even now—
or in the coming, bracing months the geese have left behind?

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