Yes, there is beauty
Enormity of beauty and truth.
But there is immense pain and suffering.
The wind and the clouds
And the rain
Bring messages, you know.
My trees know about
The Damming of the Great Rivers
The Killing of the Great Whales
They know about the death
Of seven elephants in India
Hit by a train.
They know about the lynx
Caught in a snare
A mile from here.
The weight of their suffering
Is intense, palpable, silent.
And they know
Who is the enemy
It has been a month or more since
the chestnut oak parted its lips
to taste my hand. Touch of palm
against wet mouth and the teeth entered me,
needle—hair–filament–fine. Light as arrow
feather they pierce skin, and then explode
I turned from the tree’s embrace
as fire lanced my hand, skin enflamed
with this sacred kiss: Creeping through my body
till I wondered if my breath would stop
bearing so much pain. So much delight
in receiving tongue of tree; in the bulb
of my thumb, still today the tracks are clear.
Skin bubbled back, miming the trace of lifeline.
A year ago, on another mountain slope
I laid my hand on cousin tree. This one
smooth of bark, no longer standing.
American chestnut bole, leaned against sandstone
cliffs, the peak of Appalachia’s forest heart.
The smooth giant, slick with rain, tricked my feet
and I fell, hand first, into her arms.
Mother chestnut, I wept against your fallen body
cradling my broken hand–tears for the axe
bite of blight that took you from me, left us
dying in each other’s arms.
My hand is inoculated now with spore and saliva,
blade and bruise. My blood has taken in the love
and grief that cloak our mountains–green forest
grows in my cambium tissues, forests’ destruction
stains my sapwood veins.
What work for these hands of mine, dipped in living
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