Every eight years, maybe seven, limbs
must go. So says the man, a keeper
of trees from Hemlock Co.
Across the oak-studded lawn
he strides, clipboard in hand,
taking notes about what
Ive gotten myself into,
this naturally-seeded lot.
Easier to log them, to avoid
sap-stained cars and raking-backaches,
to let the grass feel the sun.
We bought the lot for the trees beauty;
didnt recognize their danger, their cost.
Baptism by fire okay, but baptism
by wood, no good, declares the keeper,
gesturing toward a gnarled branch
thicker than he is, black with what looks like rot.
That ones a widow-maker, he says,
indicating another dark limb, half-obscured
by leaves. That branchs biggern my bank,
chortles my guide, directing my attention
upward, eastward, toward a giants claw,
fingers longer than I am tall, waving
goodbye to someone fourteen miles away.
For the keepers jocose mood
I cant account. But I say nothing.
Expertise like this doesnt come cheap.
The less I talk, the sooner Ill know the price
for clearing the deadwood. As I follow him,
a tree reaches out, not from above but below:
a root erupting above ground turns
my foot, sends me sprawling amid fallen leaves.
The bed where I lie crackles; without rising,
enjoying the view, I shift my head. The trees look
even taller from down here. Uncertain,
the keeper glances down, then away;
for the first time that day I laugh.