March 7, 2018

Trees and Forests

Trees and Forests

The desiccation of family life

growing wilderness between cousins,

parents, uncles,

the bones of marriages half buried in sand;

my memory flecked with the shine

of gatherings, reunions

before we became nomads

and visits across town

became across states

across country;



Messy brown love

and ribs, noise, chicken


Uncle Burt from North Carolina,

and grown-ups everywhere

like trees we used for shade

for climbing

for finding fruit

and dark-skinned aspirations

because every summer gathering breezed

whispered pride in what we could do


Holiday dinners at Ezell and Uncle Mel’s,

maybe at our house next

inside-noise and food smells

dressing up in our new Christmas clothes;

personalities contained by decorum

rivalries tuned down,

memories of their childhood seasons

passed down like gravy

or dressing


My deforestation began with a grandfather

lost in a fire

another grandfather

next, my father;

the men cut down first

and a clearing became an opening;

the noise,

the reunions,

got smaller

our drives got longer


Marriages died,

their dry bones marking collapsing civilizations



pressed like important corsages

into books fattened with smiling faces

warm eyes

wistful histories,

and unfilled promises


Sitting in the sun of my latest Promise Land

its water half-filling my dreams;

nursing the injuries of telephone calls

about old ones dying or newly dead

without aunts or sisters to bring food

uncles or brothers to sit and visit,

their children bent under the weight

of lowering family trees to the ground



In the oasis of my solitude

I tell my daughters

grown now,

of a time of trees

and lakes

ribs and chicken,

of ancestors

and predecessors

and sanctuary


M. D. Harris   2010