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Poetry Prose and Other Words

by Ken Ingham

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  Dead Wood

. . . . . . and then, much later,
after hundreds of layers of cambium
had numbered her girth
the spirit withdrew. Suddenly,
with as little notice as when
it had first arrived on earth,
squeezing its huge mystery
into that tiny acorn.
Her breathing stopped.
No buds or leaves appeared.
What in winter had been just
another naked figure in the crowd
now stood out like David
bones and muscles all exposed
by lack of foliation.
Dead, of course, but still erect and proud
a monument to her own passing,
tall above the remnants
of her final and most fruitful fall.

The canopy is broken now,
Poison ivy shinnies up her trunk,
hoisted by the very light that built
the thing to which it clings.
Ants and termites follow close behind,
finally free to cross the line
they hollow out the heart of her,
the one whose shed branches
had sustained them in abeyance.
Instead of warblers and thrushes
come flickers and woodpeckers
daily paying their noisy respects
peeling back the skin, partaking
of her body by the insect full.
Instead of raging katydids
at night come softly spoken owls
to assess the broken sockets
of her moon-engaging hull.

One by one her limbs succumb
to weight of vine and snow.
Winds blow hard, she cannot bend
her roots let go, she tips, and then . . .
her lumbering carcass comes to rest
amongst the rocks and flowers
in the understory of her youth.
Prayerful chipmunks eulogize.
Mulching worms and micro-organisms
tenderize what's left of her.
Old molecules and rare earth ions
seek asylum in the rain, penetrate the hairy roots,
and rise up through the xylem of her progeny.