Among the Tall in Long Black Clothes

Acer saccharinum

Then follow the years they snap
our limbs, twist wires into fences,
cage men from the road. Beyond us

others wait in the craggy foothills
to thieve their supplies, while we
are routinely shaken in the dark.

They strip our arms, denude limbs
of bark, and take what we hold
(nests, burrows, kites, troves).

Within that thrashing, the wind pants,
paws humidity, then torrent,
opens our wounds to windstorm.

We are treed, always, but then
they carve their initials, prayers,
and entire tongue into our trunk.

With roots bound deep into the plains,
we can’t turn from them, can’t stop
the wind, wildfires, and droughts,

or leave their hill. Not discarded,
but used, then blamed for whatever
befalls each day—tree lice, mold,

rotten bark, leaves that whither
in blackened curls. We strain,
dissociating from trunk to crown.

Our heartwood hollows, becomes
a masticated thing, a jagged chamber,
a void of refuse. Then the first bombs fall.

—Laura Madeline Wiseman