Fall 2016 (Volume 20, Issue II): 20th Anniversary Issue
SHADOW OF THE LIGHTNING-STRUCK TREE
Still upright, not trembling, and casting yet
a length of dark in the ravine
though it was not blackened by the bolt,
nor set afire, just rent,
and its living wood, heartwood, was split
to spear-lengths, thrown
into the arms of other nearby trees, pierced
a few inches into soft ground.
A friend said look for fulgurite
at its foot—how lightning’s heat
transforms wet sand. I never could
go down there, stepping onto spongy
earth, bending and mosquito-bitten, to see,
not wanting to touch the open place
where bark tore, pale tender cambium
living, splintery, a chest exposed.
Someone in our city once called cottonwoods
dirty, suggesting cutting them all down.
From up along the ridge I hear the whine
a chainsaw makes, a neighbor man
cleaning up some brush. How will it stand,
surviving winter months, wide
open to the ache of cold? I imagine years
ahead, seeing half of it shorn
of leaves, the other half full, standing,
swaying, its trunk creaking, seeming
to speak as it moves, play of light
and dark, not a word finally said.