Monday, April 13, 2009

Meant To Last Forever

A single dead tree at the end of the alley
behind the tenement row stood
like some ancient English highlands monolith.
Our young minds viewed it in an almost religious awe.
To us it seemed as if it had been there forever –
for our brief lives, at least,
a testament to nature’s endurance.
Transcending even life.
leaves gone and sap long ago frozen
it still stood sentinel, beckoning,
gathering young minds to its base
like a swirling wind gathers leaves.
When older brothers would lift us to the lowest branches
we rode the wind like ancient mariners,
climbing to the main mast crow’s nest,
to shout “sail on the starboard beam!” or “Land Ho!”
like the buccaneers we had seen
in the plethora of 25 cent movies
flashing in darkened halls on Saturday afternoons.
If no booster was available
hours were still spent beneath the gaunt limbs
studying the smooth wood
forever stripped of its clothing bark,
now marked with the cuts of neighborhood knives,
hearts and names entwined together
in pledges meant to last forever.
Though it was an escape from the boredom
of plastic toys and city sidewalks,
mothers would chastise for the climbing
with horror stories of broken limbs
snapped necks and untimely deaths.
One day when moisture began to fall
from an angry looking sky.
we ran from the stinging rain
to huddle on Tommy’s back porch.
A sudden flash left us wide eyed,
the air sizzling as a blue white streak
caressed the tree from crown to foot
and with a deafening crack
clove it in two, half still standing,
the second half lying across the alley.
An electric smell of burnt carbon
and sulfur rose in a steaming hiss.
With heart crushing certainty
we knew our ship had been sunk by
a single cannon volley from God’s long gun.
Later, when men quickly and easily carved
what we thought permanent into sawdust,
we stood amazed that someone had thought
to motorize a saw!
Perhaps this was the tree’s last gift –
that invention and ingenuity
could also be the stuff of dreams.
But first, Tommy climbed up upon
the flat topped stump
swiveled his hips in a familiar exaggerated gesture.
and pretended to strum a guitar while shouting
“Hey, look at me! I’m Elvis Presley!”

Yet another jigsaw poem - a friend, Jeff Kilday, provided the words plethora, lift, booster, alley, moisture, carbon, monolith, boredom, motorize and property. Plethora? Motorize? Did I mention I was trying to write a poem? Geesh! For guys, this old tree has been around since we climbed down out of them and started walking upright. But Beverly is able to relate too - and she spoke of how in her youth girls wore dresses and how she was often scolded for coming home with a burst seam or other tear, the result of "the tomboy" in her. There's a poem in that image too - but one the ladies will have to address for me! (let me know if you do!)

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