We struggle through soggy snow,
our snowshoes a doubting Thomas
unable to waterwalk, each sunken step
the link in a lifeline cast back to the road.
Granite ridges rise on either side of us,
indifferent in their sleep of millennia.
The incessant soundtrack in my head
kneels, pressed flat, white as this silence.
Lungs ache to expel the air of the rooms
we inhabit. Fir, spruce and larch climb
the sheer slopes effortlessly. Pines splay
nursling hands, children eager to return
to the field after the red blight of illness.
Treetops bristle against heavy cloud.
Whatever mind set this galaxy in motion
understood: waking consciousness
in so many limbs would crowd this world
beyond endurance. Instead, Earth strikes
the green flint of their lives with patient fire,
filling the skies with breath and being.
We two have walked this trail before,
left these same footprints—orderly runes
drawing us toward inescapable
whiteness, an omen of completion.
Knowing they can’t hear but trusting
the spark they bear is alive, we talk to trees,
lay our hands on the pitch they exude,
try to divine which one will sacrifice itself
to be our ever-living sprig, release
evergreen incense to the hungry gods
and goddesses whose absence lingers on
in our own insatiable hunger for life.
Nagging, ancient images of a Garden
untouched by frost persist and blossom
in each snowflake, unique as souls appearing
and reappearing against winter night.
And so we pray before we saw into living wood,
compelled by visions of cut-paper stars,
milky way garlands and glass bells chiming
inaudibly—memories of now
and a hundred thousand yesterdays,
when this one tree is Queen of the Season
and we huddle with every winged and four-footed child
to follow its perfumed reach into heaven.
©2013 Sean Arthur Joyce