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Requiem for the Trees

1. Blow Down

Thunderstorms the other night with wind shears
And lightning: one pure braid of current

And then another—that absolute carbide
Running to earth, slamming the circuit-breakers.

Two trees around the corner toppled across the wires,
Sparks showering the branches.

Trees in the park as well uprooted in a swath,
Leaves already wicking off the sap.

I climbed among them this morning, stunned
As always by the scale of that stillness,

The century's worth of time ticking from them
Like distances through which the vast herds fell.

One great unearthed wheel loomed before me,
Seven, eight feet high—

Clumps of dirt in the root-hairs, wattle-and-daub
From which the popped cords hung—

The whole ball strangely glowing, as if the light
Were something immanent and still abiding there.

2. Dutch Elm

My neighbor's been at it again today,
Rappelling among the branches of the blighted tree,

Rigging a block-and-tackle above where
His chainsaw passes, the huge sky streaming through.

Even leafless, even the sand-blasted gray of driftwood,
It's stood sentry in our alleyway.

Now, with the ends of the limbs lopped off,
It looks like a patient after the first surgeries,

The sky like afterwards with the alcohol and gauze.
Busy, he is happy, having found his way to mastery,

Managing the blight, the loss of all that greenery
Into the usable thermals of wood.

He reminds me of those settlers, circa 1850,
Climbing the masts of Indiana's last bur oaks,

Trying to sight the ends of the emptiness
To which they'd just come,

And failing that, plunging onward with their hymns,
Wreckage trailing behind them.

Robert Gibb

Sheet Music
Autumn House Press

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