It stood yesterday and the day before
Over these low flat shacks on the eastern shore
In firm reflection of a vanished heat.
The tree was this land’s only sign,
And this the place I came to sit
And strongly drink its intertwine.

In its shadows chickens scratched,
Squawked and sputtered, and were gone.
The parched grey windworn boards linger on
Into this new day when new breeds hatch:
More repentant chickens. They have not known
The tree, will not look up to see
Its fingers unfold their intricacies.

From its branches I was shown
The structure of the surrounding land,
The low purple hills so close at hand
In the distant west, and lightening
In the east the deepening dawn.
Now sky-sweep and earth rub like freezing hands
And shrink from the pinch and forethought of snowing
As the wind settles in with its grey blight.

And winter comes with tree bones bleakened white.
This broad land with its low scrub,
These sad chickens, and all our proud sweat
Live the same cycle and spin the same wheel
Through light and water, and in the end each must deal
With complete absence. But it is now my hub,
And now this one tree’s absence which I feel.

September 4, 1974

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