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The oak and the storm

August 5, 2015

Like gallows the watching trees sway, abandoned, grief their garland, silent, unsplended words.
Dripping with the snarling rain, oaks dark green, brown skin, libs twitching with unborn cares.
Beneath the greying mess, the scudding inept clouds, the sky a pool of dirty sand, speckled, gritty with over-blown birds.

We are asked to be still, to watch the gathering night, to be aware of our prayers, our oft repeated dreams.
We are told to be quiet, to be careful as we watch him; the drowned man, the hanging man, the oak.
We are told he is ancient, as old as the sky.
We are told to be respectful of his noose of clinging leaves.
But as children we gaze, knives sharp, ready to carve an initial, a spell.

Far above, far away the sky gives birth to a new horizon and the sickly moon breathes pale gloom into another heart.
We sit, daisy chains our charms, we sit and forgive nothing but the curse, the curse of memory, sight and life.

For he has watched us this many lifetimes. Staring through the puddle of joy that was our childhood.
He, the tree, the spirit of pinched nerves and sullen reflexes, he the remarkable plant.
We have dreamed, conjured-up the fear, imagined the swaying, the groaning carcass of once a man.
This thing of bloated piety that hates the sun.

“Don’t be afraid” they tell us, those without the sight of imagination. “It’s just an old oak.” And we know better you and I. We have seen him n the storm, in the rain, moving, walking, dancing.
To us he isn’t just a tree, just an ancient gallows long since abandoned by grieving wives and disillusioned men.
We know more, far more. We watch instead of sleep, we gather the charms of our grace, the spells of our tradition and shun sleep.
We know that old things breed new fears, that the brooding impregnable force is unleashed.

We are told to go, return to home and fire, food and family.
We are told to abandon the vigil, the sky and the land.
But we do not, we know well the power of the cloud, the gestures of the moon.
We will not move, will not abandon our hopes to unfeeling dreams.

And we wait, we whisper in the tongue of the grave.
We scatter grey words into the air like black leaves.
And then the thunder comes, the lightning piercing our eyes, the thunder eliminating reason.

And the arrows rain, rain, rain.
And the grass is a meadow no more, but a marsh of wet, water cold.
And it is dark, the farmhouse disappeared into another time, the hayfield nothing but yesterday’s thought.

We rise to our squelching feet, flowers in our hair, birch wands ready.
We hold hands, we search the heavens for fresh treacheries.
And then as if conjured by a burst of thunder the oak moves.

“Don’t be afraid,” they say, “It’s just an old oak.”

And we know better, we know true. We hear the groaning splintering of reason.
The dark giant moving, wandering over the tired land.
The tree who has killed, the hangman’s tree, the spirit tree.

Old people say that the tree has absorbed such things as fear and grief, terror and hatred.
Old people speak to us around the stew pot, hunks of bread talismans against the night.

And now he walks, legs of thick, snake-like roots, trailing umbilical from his wombing earth.

And in the wind a thousand voices wail. A hundred groaning, a chorus of frenzied longings.
Through the rain towards the old stone wall, over the grass, under the sky, in the storm.
And then he stops and then he falls, a torturing evil sound of the tree’s death.
He lies, massive, cold. No garlands his rest, no men dancing, no treacherous final convulsing breath.
He is dead, claimed by the storm.

They tell us of lightning, or thunder of night.
They talk to us of how the old oak fell, smashed by heaven’s light.
But we know different, we know true. We know the haunting, terrible truth, our secret for all time.

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From → Fiction, Poetry

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