Photo by Carrie McKamey
Atop a hill there is a weathered oak
whose listless limbs spread so wide it seems
to hang by them and not to stand. It’s bark
is scarred by whips of wind, by scratching beasts,
by birds that pierce its trunk with beaks. When fall
arrives, a crimson stain spreads to all
the leaves. They slowly trickle down beneath
a blanching sky, and then, leaf by leaf,
their reddish carpet covers up the ground.
It seems that with the leaves a peace descends.
The breeze breathes a sigh, perhaps relieved
and ready to forget how summer lived
intemperately. But seasons change. Amends
are made. What was before cannot be found.
Like a single, massive stone, clouds
roll in heavily overhead, sealing
everything in the darkened earth. Stealing
downward, ashen snowflakes fill the ground.
Hours later, the landscape is buried
under whitish mounds. The oak tree’s
limbs, covered in snow, slowly ossify
in the breathless, frozen air. Nearby,
icicles curl over a stream, gripping
its banks like the fingers of a glass
skeleton. The sun turns its vacant stare
on the clouds, helpless to move them. Everywhere,
silence keeps its secrets, and the days pass.
Winter is here: grave, still, and waiting.
Early morning—like the first day
of creation—waits in dark mystery
for the light. The dawn paints gradually
on its black canvass: first gray,
then color returns to the world’s
face like a man reviving. All
winter long, the land has drunk the cold,
melting snow. Underground, in small
gaps and crevices, things sprout and grow,
nourished by the runoff. Flora raises
above ground, beyond the earth’s hold.
Limbs outstretched, the oak stands in bold
relief, suddenly shot through with the sun’s rays,
which crown spring and renew everything below.