From the Silence of Many Trees

by Temple Cone

Sometimes a tree strikes your face with the memory of loss.
Hickory bark keeps the furrows of the parched fields you left.
The sycamore leaves turning away in the wind are your father’s hands.

From what tree Absalom hanged himself, we never bother to ask.
Of course Jesus blighted the fig that failed to bear its bloodred fruit,
But about the wood that fashioned the true cross, the gospel remains silent.

No matter what changes the earth below them has suffered, geese
Continue their night migrations by checking the alignment of stars.
Our scorched world is only one of a trillion celestial fires,

Although we have never heard that crystalline music Pythagoras sang of.
So we find that grief is a prodigal child, missing at the moment of grief.
The soul should love the snails that gather rusty leaves into themselves.

Did we model the flute on a bolt-struck tree graced by wind?
Or one hollowed by disease? Or on a trunk the woodpecker broke into,
First looking for a meal of sweet termites, then settling for a home?

Why should the tall fir fallen after many years from an escarpment
Care if we hear it? The broken roots shake soil, shake themselves awake,
The sound of someone rising from his knees after long prayer.

Temple Cone is an assistant professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is the author of five chapbooks of poetry—Eurydice & Orpheus (Finishing Line, forthcoming), Radiolaria (Pudding House, 2007), Quandary Farm (Pudding House, 2007), A Father’s Story (Pudding House, 2007), and Considerations of Earth and Sky (Parallel Press, 2005)—and of two reference works on 20th-Century American poetry and on Walt Whitman. He has received a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Poetry and the John Lehman Award in Poetry from Wisconsin Academy Review, and was an Open Contest Winner in Best New Poets 2005. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife and daughter.