If Grandmother Tree could talk
She would only tell love stories,
Because there is enough tragedy in life
For fleeting flowers to sing of
And enough cruelty in love
For everlasting trees to notice.
She has stood through decades
Foliage waxing and waning
As affection is want to do.
She rocks and quakes with whispers
It’s true that Grandmother Tree
Is a hopeless romantic
And not every tree would write a romance
If trees were want to write.
But what better subject matter for one
Seen and lived through everything,
Than what is at the heart of everyone
The story of an hour
Starts with two performers:
She poured her love into lines
And into the final bow.
What under the spotlight loomed and sweltered
Vanished with the day of curtain.
Actors are a blank canvas
And she wanted to paint him with affection.
He, on the contrary,
Distinguished between character and artist
And did not return the sentiments.
He didn’t simply react with indifference,
But burnt the stalks of love at the root.
Her heart hurt with his loathing,
Which was the tale Grandmother Tree told
As her leaves dropped off for the winter.
From then on, the girl could only love in summer.
In the sunshine she could kiss and laugh,
Her wound healed in the heat.
But winters she froze her desire,
It felt wrong to love another.
She waited like a seed under frost, hoping to be thawed.
The cold numbed her to the desire of a third,
Who pined for her guarded mind.
Like an evergreen he loved in needles
Sharp and surviving
Through flurry and blizzard,
But unable to catch bloom or retreat from green.
All this the Grandmother Tree could see
And would share if words were leaves.
How love settles in a way
That entirely befits the magic and
Cruelty of nature.
The swing creaks under two generations
A deep sigh punctuates the air
As beer comes to the old father’s lips,
Crickets reminding him how many years
He’s spent with his son on this porch.
And night owls ask him when they will end.
“you know, I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout your girl”
“She’s smart, all right…”
The son took his cue to sigh
Passing his gaze through the cold heavy air
Watching the tall grass blow in the breeze,
And moths float toward the porch light,
After a false moon.
“Could you picture her here?
She ain’t really a country girl.
I rocked you on this porch swing,
You chased fireflies in this field.
Tumbling down, stained by this very grass
Did she ever get stained by grass as nice as ours?”
The son looked at his dad’s deep blue eyes
Deep not just in color—
The same as the rustic sky—
But in memories.
Memories of fishing in the backyard
Rides on the tractor
And loving among the thistles, owls, moths,
Cattails, bass, dear, chickens, and old Sal the hound.
His face was wrinkled by the son’s warm embrace,
He saw all of this as he stayed silent.
“Boy, I sure do love her…
Especially since you love her,
But I ain’t never known a woman
With a law degree
And boots with them heels
Who was happy out here.
She smells like smoke and city and speed
And I thought I raised you in the country air”
“Papa, you taught me to love nature”
“That’s what I’m doing”
The hound barked from the porch, and came over
To join in the conversation.
Adding the thump of his tail against
Worn grey wood
To the song of the farm.
“Pops when I see her hair blowing
In the car when she drives way too fast
Or when I get a message about her day
Of long classes
I see nature”
“She’s a storm, unpredictable but
So lovely in its madness.
I can’t keep up but I love tryin’
Like running in the rain.
We live out here in one type of world
And she comes from bustle and city,
But there’s nothing unnatural about how
Her eyes glow and shine after a long day’s work.
As pretty as the constellations in fall,
I swear to you”
The dad’s smile creeped up
And the owl no longer seemed critical
But like he was harking for details
“Go on boy…”
“Dad you taught me that even weather
Lightning, fire, storms
She isn’t our quiet field, or serene pond
But she could be the wind and rain that ripples it”
Just then, a trout jumped
And the moths kept searching for Diana
And the old man heard the voice of his
Long gone wife in his head.
And felt how long it’d been since they had
Seen any rain.
Shady Side Academy's literary magazine, established 1928