The Shade Tree

From you, I learned the world

does not allow both
in single trunk of flesh,

no matter how many
sun-charred children
you gather under your
wide-swept branches,
no matter how many
crinkled leaves of gold
you rain down into their
hungry open mouths.

This kind of healing
puts a dose of poison
in the roots, it comes
with sterile soil,
with a daily loosening,
and they will never know it,
not even when the trunk
begins to list and groan
in the wind issuing
from their wailing throats.

It would be such a simple lust,
to ache for aching
like they do,
to just give in to it
and ache like they do,
to swallow no one’s pain
but gallons of your own,
to feast on yourself.

Forget this strange nutrition.

Even if it lets your roots
knot their worried fingers
deeper into the hair
of your lover the earth,
even if it brings strength
beneath the earth,
it withers the limbs above.
It shades no one.

It would heal you with a cost:
a shrinking ring of shade,
and the sun rises ever higher,
it burns ever hotter
and here it never sets.

It lays hot on your back, yes,
but it sears these children
of sticks, and they are
already smoking.

Let them huddle closer.
Stretch your limbs
to encompass as many of them
until your bark cracks
with the strain of reaching.

Bathe their bodies, feed them,
and grow dizzy with it,
feel the earth kiss you
even as she loosens your fingers
from clutching so tightly,
teeter and hunch and splinter
but never stop shielding
the blistered beneath you.

How valuable is a shade tree
if it could not
come crashing down
one day?

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.
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