Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Sentinel


Christmas came
before I left,
and the tall fir tree
in your living room
still stood
with the children's decorations;
and vibrant memories dripped
from its beautiful branches;
like how we found it
that gray rainy day
out on the bluff,
deep amongst the evergreen multitudes,
and we stood in the downpour,
four under one umbrella,
while I worked on my knees
in the mud
pushing the crosscut blade deeper
and deeper into its thick trunk;
or how we dragged it straight
through the tethered rows
to hoist it wet and high
onto the top of your silver station wagon;
and we giggled, fussed, and sang
along those happy miles
listening to it shift and sway
above our heads;
of how you and the girls
let me assist
in the sacred ritual of the decoration,
allowing me
to become part of your holiday,
like the tree.

one quiet night after New Year's,
you stood
and began to dismantle it;
packing the glitter, bulbs, and toys
gently back into their bright boxes;
but even naked,
that tree did not lose
its majesty,
and you could not discard it;
it rested
under your watchful gaze,
against the side of your house,
near your bedroom window,
month after month,
until winter moved into spring.

You know,
the world is full
of magic
and tiny miracles,
like you and I
being drawn back together;
three roses reappearing
in the hand of a buddha,
restoring blessed harmony
to the song of Spring
emerging from the sun-kissed throats
of robins,
added to the night music
warbled by all the other
invisible birds.

One day
you talked to me
about that tree,
and then I saw it
last week,
lying so brown and still
against the siding.
before you came home from work,
I moved it.

As my hands slid under its dry boughs,
it bled clear pitch on my fingers,
and on its underside
some of the needles were still green.
I stood up,
cradling it in my arms,
and I thought I heard
a faint whisper
on the breeze
for coming back.
I couldn't have lasted
much longer."

I could not let the garbage man
touch our old friend;
so I dragged it
to the edge of the woods
east of your house,
and leaned it
against an indifferent alder;
so that every time
I come over,
it can still
greet me.

Glenn Buttkus May 1990

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