When a dead tree falls in a forest
if often falls into the arms
of a living tree. The dead,
thus embraced, rasp in the wind,
slowly carving a niche
in the living branch, sheering away
the rough outer flesh, revealing
the pinkish, yellowish, feverish
inner bark. For years
the dead tree rubs its fallen body
against the living, building
its dead music, making its raw mark,
wearing the tough bough down,
moaning in the wind, the deep
rosined bow sound of the living
shouldering the dead.
Dorianne Laux, September 2002
I found this poem in Poets Against the War, edited by Sam Hamill.
The quick and the dead are not so very different. We all manifest for a while in a certain way and then we do not, but we are all connected in the web of life.
Consider the impact the dead have on us each day? (I hope you do not struggle with a fresh grief and do not mean to renew the sharpness of loss.) Only the young can imagine that grief goes away. It may soften but we always feel the loss of those we love. It is not only grief; there is remembrance. All those memories that are part of us and the encounters that shaped us once and shape us still. Genetic code, yes, but also the many facets of our lives absorbed from family, neighborhood, friends, culture. When we are gone, others will carry the conscious and unconscious memory of us as ripples spread from our lives.
I am intrigued by how Laux describes the dead tree as revealing the inner life of the living one. When a loss tears away our outer skin it shows the raw, living flesh beneath. If our pain is acute, it shows our love. If we did not feel deeply, we would not be fully alive.
This Lent I am pulling out random poems to share. I have no schema to follow. I hope that poetry can help nurture your soul as it does mine.