The Shady Tree (Returning to What Was Left Behind)

Climbed a mountain
then I turned around

Stevie Nicks, from “Landslide”

there were no trees in the playground’s grassy field
there were no friends, not on that day nor any other
I could hear the far laughter of the rest of the children
and distant laughter rings hollow and unsubstantial
like cackling branches as mighty frost breaks them

but there are spaces between the blades of grass
I tell you they are there, for I spent the time to ask;
in between the choking pride of green all around
confident they swarm towards the brightest sounds,
as ants below start praying for moon’s cooler songs

I’d watch the ants go to and fro between what is tall
for there are little highways giving transport to all
but no tree was there to give hope to their despair
hot sun of the day sweltering grass to a yellow sear
laughter still bellowing pain too much to bear.

but there are deeper wounds where Earth is exposed
where I’d plant my seeds for the Shady Tree to grow,
and I watched it there as it made for clear blue sky
while birds – ever unaware – would pass it swiftly by,
the more none paid mind, the deeper sad would sigh

even my tears didn’t give that tree its longed for life
and the taller it became, the more it wanted to die
even sunlight couldn’t rest upon its widest shade
for shadows of imagination are fruitless in the day
tiny teardrops reflecting what was to prayer lost

now it is time to fell that old and bellowing tree,
the one that gave comfort to ants and then to me,
for no one ever lived there, not as far as I could see,
and so perhaps when I remove that great misery
I will find empty space of the life that I’d left there

(In the playgrounds grassy field,
laughter calling me to the distance,
sun lighting the way for ants who are lost,
leading them to the cooling of the moon.)

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