“The whole bough bending then springing back as if from sudden sight” – Jorie Graham, “Self-Portrait as the Gesture Between Them [Adam and Eve]” from The End of Beauty
But the other tree—the Tree of Life—wasn’t surprised at all.
its lowest limb (the one the boy’d been swinging)
We two found it there after Hurricane Sandy:
great, grey and ashen, as the charred head of a dragon.
I remembered the spot because for yards round no other trees grew tall.
I thought the little roots were choked out
and that was how life gave way to life.
Now I know
the bigger roots play surrogate parent to so many unmeasured things:
the dark durance of my backyard.
What really happened is
the limb broke like a bone.
It happened suddenly, but with much warning.
It didn’t give in; it gave out.
It broke like a bone and swung once or twice and fell and soaked up rain.
There was no boy until the next day, and his mother didn’t let him swing on it, for fear of what it would do. (I, too, keep my distance.)
Meanwhile the tree rots from the inside.
Meanwhile furry things find out.
Meanwhile fungi take root.
Meanwhile the order of things upsets.
The dead wood releases carbon one billion times slower than fire.
The big tree is dying one billion times faster than it grew.
And one billion times faster than it will grow again, if by some miracle
it outpaces the developers that lie in wait,
already sharpening their eyes.