—Southern Pines, NC
I expected a God, a titan
towering above the rest of the forest. Instead,
you were only a tree.
Not a sequoia or redwood with their legendary torsos,
thick as the stone turrets of another continent’s
medieval castles. Just a regular tree.
An unusually tall and dignified tree, certainly,
but also one with a bend in the spine like a thin man with a bad back.
Fragile. Limping toward some medicated tomorrow.
You looked exhausted. And who wouldn’t?
After outliving centuries of witch trials and slave ships,
genocides and confederacies,
logging industries and men from Maryland
sent to harvest your sap for turpentine.
Four hundred sixty-eight years is a long time when,
at any given moment,
someone like me could toss
a cigarette butt from the window of a minivan.
And just like that: history
is an ash-whitened field,
a twenty-square-mile arc of unremarkable flatness
in a space where some ancient breathing things
once stood (the way I now stand), their limbs
stretching to feel the wind weave
through their fingers and branches.
Copyright © 2022 Matthew Olzman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.