Tree of Swords

The tree stood, gnarled and contorted,
just below the barren snowline,
perched precariously between boulders
split by its ancient, knotted roots.

Wind howled down from the glacial peak,
knife-keen and cruel; the sun
reflected from the snow, pain-bright;
clouds scudded the blue horizon, indifferent.

Pinned to the ancient tree, a man hung,
naked, pierced by seven swords,
run through at shoulders, arms, legs and groin;
his blood had frozen in red icicles
connecting him to the ground.

As black-winged crows landed
on the branches above and beside him
he somehow lifted his head
to regard the ravens who’d arrived
at the banquet of his life
through dim and dying eyes.

“Take what you will,” he whispered,
racked. “The table is set, the cutlery
provided. You need only feast,
and when my life is spent,
winter will finally end.”

The crows moved to their feast
as indifferent as the clouds and the sun,
but when they’d torn out his eyes
and his entrails, a warm wind
from the south drove them away.

The blood-ice began to melt,
then the glacier above, filling
empty creekbeds with snowmelt,
and for the first time in millennia,
the ancient tree bloomed
in spite of the swords that had pierced
even to its wizened heart.
And in autumn, it yielded fruit.

—Deborah L. Davitt