A Tree in Winter

When in the winter, I shall stand
a bare tree tall on frozen land
there may be some who choose to rake
among the leaves left in my wake
and into separate piles by hue
divide these skeletons. But who
can tell by looking at them from
the long rake’s length, when the snows come
which were the first to dry and fall
without accounting for them all?

Which once green fans in spring were dropped,
and now are mixed with autumn’s crop?
Which dried on branches now grown old
and clung until their sap ran cold?

Like placing blank sheets front and back
of chapters splitting the known facts
that populate a life’s long span
in some great sequence, as if planned,
without acknowledging the whole
as mystery, beyond control.

And once so bagged and sifted through,
who knows if they are sorted true?
If such a task be done at all —
one sack too full, or one too small,
tends to distort one’s sense of scale
and in the end, can only fail
the way a footprint in the dust
leaves little sign, except it must
describe a path begun or ended;
not much else, or what intended
course was left behind or started fresh.

Each turning point leads but to guess.

For who’s to say which precise point
becomes the branch’s end, or joint.
Until the growth is stopped by time
there is no finite to a line.

But some will section off in parts
where one phase ends, and one phase starts,
and in some erudite display
explain a life in finite ways,
and capture facts with endless notes,
transcribe the tunes from songbird’s throats,
fit each stray thought into some mold
where it can be cast, hard and cold.

I choose, instead, to linger on
those leaves now lost, blown from the lawn
by wind and rain, that will not be
included in the raked tally.

For these, the lost uncounted score,
describe the flesh that is no more,
but lines a garden bed somewhere
or turned to dust along a shore.

And the great naught that is their wake
needs neither sack, nor pile, nor rake.

01 DEC 2004

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