Four Stages in the Life of Trees

First comes time, flung ahead by the young,
who put their backs into it, while the sap sings
epic in their veins, the first century sent
whistling past like a discus, the satisfying rings
of rapid growth, the thrill of the game.

Then comes fire, years of the drought,
Atlas the trickster, buckling sky, pain, doubt –
so bark thickens, roots go deep, leaves learn
laughter in season; in seasons of thirst,
patience, courage, and how to exist.

Age comes after, by a door in a dream,
in scenes of Doric columns, cracked and plain,
or Sisyphus, halting, sweat in his eyes,
spine like a drawn bow, slipping, the crunch
of his back, the ponderous future thundering down.

Moss comes last, and moss makes soft the shade,
makes green medieval, makes tapestry, makes grace.
Moss is a blanket, gently laid. Moss covers fallen things:
kings, mountains, birds, whatever collapses in a cool place
under the staggering substance of days.

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