A fallen giant

When a giant falls
there’s a hole overhead that
sky shows through
where green used to be, and
birds fly around in circles, confused,
wondering where to sit now,
and the earth is punched
full of holes that branches make
crashing heavily to ground.

Weeks later, I, not fallen yet, bend
to pick up, one by one, cut up limbs,
each limb larger in diameter
than many lesser tree’s trunks,
limbs sawed now into perfect size
to last all night in the wood burning stove.

Mindfully, I give thanks for this ongoing gift
of oak life, that will provide future winter warmth,
to me and mine, many truckloads.

Then, tired out, back sore, yet oddly child-like still,
I decide to walk carefully the massive giant’s trunk
that is laid out full length. I move my arms
to steady my steps, feeling gingerly
beneath my sturdy boots
the thick bark’s textured weave
that bugs will soon penetrate.

Thinking then too much about turned ankles,
I manage to lower me down to sit in one spot
on the trunk that is so thick that
my feet barely touch the ground,
and the solid circular treeness under me
feels familiar from many such sittings
elsewhere on other days.

I stay awhile to survey this newest view of things,
knowing that molecules are rearranged
for miles around as a result
of this latest thunderous
and momentous downfall,
breathing out, breathing in, prayers,
gratitude, consolation, identification.

Then I rise, stiffly, ease my back,
and walk to the old paint-peeling pickup
to drive slowly toward the woodshed,
the dog herding the truck’s tires all the way,
lest we get lost, I guess, the Chevy and me,
as if we didn’t know the way,
having done this many times before.

Tonight the two cats will sit proudly
on the stack of new wood
and consider themselves lucky for
the mice that will winter underneath,
forgetting the snakes that will
look after the mice, while
back there at the tree site, over time,
mulch will be made by weather
and beetles and woodpeckers,
and the fallen giant will finally
become nurse-tree for future generations
of oak, and pine, and sumac, and grass,
and so on it goes, never ending,
this circling round and round,
life living life. Me, in the midst.

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