Saturday, August 21, 2004


White Cedar (Arbor Vitae)

The cedar’s roots, straddling an Allegheny stone,
Know not to slurp: thus the tree’s diameter grows
An inch per thirty years.

When the cedar was a seedling, five centuries
Ago, Protestants did not exist; Virginia
Was still not on a map.

The first leaf fell in an unknown autumn during
The Ottoman Empire’s spring. Decomposed, fleeting,
It became another

Vaguely musty smell, rustling on the forest floor,
An ottoman where a passing centipede might
Have curled its hundred feet.

As the red seasons browned, how many leaves fell and
Carpeted the senseless ground? The Thirty Years’ War
Only meant an inch more.

From century one to two (inch three to inch four),
How many belly buttons closed? How many breaths
Expired whispering

Rumors of wars? Meanwhile, the tree bequeathed its leaves
To centipedes below, radii growing at
A most lethargic speed.

Belittled by the patient cedar, my hand runs
Along the trunk. It says I too will be gone in
A matter of inches.

Collective Improvisation:

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