My Tree

It's a childish game, to think you can possess
a tree. Portability indicates true
ownership –you cannot own something you
may have to leave behind one fine afternoon. Yet
in the backyard of the only home I can remember,
there is a being ten times as old as I am that I call

I must always say ‘my tree' because my tree
rejects pronouns –I've tried he, she, they, it –
in favor of the profound with a laugh that
shakes the helicopters from its branches.

My tree has a name;
I heard it once when I was touching
its bark and my mind had
become like it does when I lay out my
tarot cards, perfectly still with thought-shapes
drifting on the other side of clouded glass.
The name was not there –and then it was in
my head where it put down roots.

A name banks power. I hold
an unbreakable trust, and I may only
say that my tree's initial is the mimetic
Y, vowel not-vowel branching
between two worlds like Yggdrasil itself, a
little sapling letter yearning to sprout more

My tree's name has a meaning; I looked it up.
A compound word that literally means "for [insert
an odd, ancient male name here]." I believe my tree
may be Hungarian, or possibly Polish.
I say ‘my tree,' but of course my tree belongs to
no one at all. I suppose it is my fond nickname, one
that is safe to tell the world.

You would call my tree silver maple,
the bark beaming moonlight at midday and
illuminating the name. Moss spreads sporadically up
the interior limbs, cloaking regality, accentuating
spreading branches that surely
mirror those beneath the ground.
The moss crawls up the trunk from the seat, the
knobbed dip at the base where soil catches and smaller lives
take refuge in the dark while rooting for something to hold.

I stood on that seat and swung from a rope dangling
from the limb above –oh, countless times. My uncle,
the loud one who stalked around shouting
on bulldog legs and ruined his daughter's birthday
though she had flown from the land of redwoods,
proclaimed his skills of ascension and
was gracelessly swaying when the rope
broke, my tree punching him in the back as he tumbled
from his ten-foot pride.

We replaced the broken rope with one canary
yellow and woven of nylon. It was moved
to the other side of the tree after
overzealous tree trimmers, hired to keep
my tree from scraping at shingles, amputated
the rope limb. I cried, though my tree rolled
knotted eyes and said it had felt

Then we moved the rope like a clock's hand,
and I could no longer jump from the seat. We
didn't swing much after that, not
because of the move, but because
the nylon shards into your hands, poking
plastic thorns into palms that sting until
you tweeze them. I don't climb now, though I
am not yet too old to swing, don't know if I'll
ever be.

How awful that you can never mark
a tree's age unless you kill it and count
its hard-won proof of survival, championship
rings. Vertical sacrifice for horizontal
enumeration. But we numbered my tree's
circumference with a tape measure, a temporary
man-made ring of plastic, and dated its
birth around 1832. Older than oxymoronic
Civil War, my state, my great-great-grandmother.
The things my tree has borne and borne witness to
can only be imagined by those still living –humans,
of course. Time in demarcated lines exchanged for
slow circular girth.

Once, my tree came close (we thought)
to death. A split stretching a foot from the earth
worked its way slowly up my tree like a paper cut.
Mushrooms, brown with a white rim, shelved
the rupture with balloon shapes. My mother's forehead
ridged in worry, bark growing upward toward her
hair canopy, and she wondered if we would have to
cut my tree down.

My father just a few weeks ago said
a new branch was springing from the old rope
limb. My tree is replacing it as the starfish do, and he said
surely that new limb would die, so far down the trunk
and shaded by older branches above. It would be better
to cut it back now, he said. Why would a being
older than any human alive need help arranging its limbs?
I replied.

But then my mother leaned on my
weak spot, pointing out what a useless
inconvenience it would be to
an immoderate new
owner of the property. Maybe
they would
cut down my tree.

A thought almost
more paralyzing than
my own death.

A life, older and wiser
than my own will ever be, crashing
to earth with the rupture of a god because
of human inconvenience. Inconceivable.

A soul sold to a chainsaw for a sterile lawn.