The Climbing Tree

By: Ann E. Mclean

The Ponderosa Pines hunched ponderously,
Their convoluted gestures frozen
With dry, rasping limbs in stages of vexation
And narrow forearms lifted high
In savored moments of exalted epiphany.
My brother and I climbed the questions
They grew,
Our legs crouching and stretching
Over the contours of perplexity,
Kindling a childhood
On the green-laced vertebrae
Of New Mexico’s greatest fire hazard.
Our favored climbing tree
Was too close to civilization’s adobe friction
For the firemen to let Him stay.
Perhaps He was too curious, too willing to lend His
Far-sighted perch
To inquisitive children—
Those that smashed rocks in search
Of pieces of the moon.
His lowest plateau,
A place of triumph, regardless,
Bled orange one day,
And the pigment brushed my flushed cheeks with discord.
This orange rot was a sickness spread from mankind,
A mark
For the brow of the doomed.
So we set upon fate with man’s finest scalpel,
Our father’s ax,
And it was fearful doctors that then sculpted their patient,
Heavy-handed in their love
And heady with the role of a savior.
Sepia bark gleamed metallically with sap
Where the incisions lay,
Fly eyes made of a hacked and honeycombed trunk,
That saw nothing.
And the men finished off this crippled love
With blunter and bigger saws,
And all that remained of a once beautiful
Climbing tree
Was a bit of orange spray-paint—
A tombstone scrawled hastily
Over the true victim of fire.