I said farewell to the two blue spruce
my lumberjack grandfather planted
as seedlings fifty-five springs ago
when I was a small unsmiling shadow
always at his heel, reaching for his hand.
In that narrow strip of yard between
our former gas station's new garage
and the big house built up by my sister
around the frame of the old horse barn,
the trees had thrived, shooting up sixty feet,
just as I had grown to a greater height
than that man who was always my true north.
But now their seasonal cascades
of small sharp needles had grown too great
for roofs or gutters to continue to bear.
Crowded in by other trees around,
their branches were dying, their tops broken.
We could no longer leave them there.
We called in Paul, whose arborist
have planted far more than he has cut,
who speaks to each tree he must bring down
before he clips on the climbing strap,
before the roar of the chain saw starts.
All day the sound of the two cycle
came down from above like the steady cascade
of limbs shaped like the primary feathers
of birds as large as those in legends.
Below, the woodchipper's chest-rumbling growl
kept pace, as Vince fed in limb after limb,
spewing out a multi-colored gale to coat the snow
with ground bark and needles, xylem and phloem
and cambium layers tranformed into thick mulch.
The smell of the woods that I remembered
clinging to my grandfather's denim coat
when he came home from a long day's work
was everywhere in the pungent air.
This morning as I stand below
an emptiness of sudden sky
where I once looked up toward limbs as old
as earliest memory, I know there is now
one more pattern gone, one more missing part
of receding childhood, one more sheltering presence
I can no longer touch with a hand.
Yet the mulch from those limbs
will hold moisture, give strength
to the raspberry bushes below the stone wall,
add to each summer's sweet late harvest.
Rough planks milled from their trunks
will make solid bridges over Bell Brook,
be built into walls to give others shelter.
Just as spirit goes on
when flesh is no longer there.
Joe Bruchac's newest
book of poetry, NO BORDERS, was published by Holy Cow!Press.
He and his wife Carol continue to live in the same home in Greenfield
Center, New York where he was raised by his grandparents and
where they run The Greenfield Review Press-- on the web at greenfieldreview.org.