Our eyes once lingered on the ancient tree
Traced to the founders of this place
Who cleared the land for farms and cemeteries,
But spared the giant elm, older than memory,
And made of it the icon of our public space.
That towering mountain of limbs and foliage!
It could be seen as a beacon in all the valley,
Majestic in every season! Every knot in the bark,
Every root that bulged through the mossy soil
Was known in its estate in the center of town.
Here we spent our Maydays with our newborns,
Playing in the shade of the afternoon sun.
Here we held our parades and moonlit fireworks,
Here we gathered for a death to mourn,
Here we found first love with lips and tongues-
There is a vengeance that exists as clouds collide!
How we wept, all of us, along with the homeless birds,
How the news was spread like fire in the landscape
That a chainsaw of light had ripped through the trunk
And split it to the core, and all fell asunder to the ground.
We gathered, hand in hand, all held another tight,
As neighbors came in fellowship and joined the crowd;
We stood amazed at the power of nature’s gods
And the profoundness of what should never die
Lying in pieces under the open sky above.
With the fading thunder and sorrowful birds
There we surrendered to a moment of true silence;
Surrounding the dismembered monument of ourselves,
Hand in hand we felt the ancient soul of the tree
Rise with the smell of sap and the smoldering leaves.
What debate was held, what prizes to win,
To fill the empty hole in our common domain!
The plans from the architects and artisans
Were posted in the daily papers, argued at the tavern;
Installations of arches with colored lights,
Fantastic sculptures of glass, Roman fountains,
Sphinxes made of iron, kaleidoscopic neon palms,
But none fit the mood of the grieving town.
But it was a stranger, got off the bus one day,
A drifter who passed through, had a beer at Jimmy’s,
Barely stayed an hour, and told the bartender-
“Take the wood that remains, the body of the tree
To conceive the tallest turret ever to be seen,
An obelisk of hope, like a lighthouse on the land.”
He said, then disappeared from our history,
Never to claim his prize or our blessings.
So it came to pass, we built the tower with its kindling
And it stands like a lightning rod to defy the storms;
A destination for tourists who crave miraculous things,
Who climb the spiral stairs which fill the hallow core
To the tip of heaven where all the valley can be seen.
It is said to be visited by spirits of the founders,
And every sound made within its scented vaults
Has a reverberating echo heard for miles around.
Inspired by Alan Hovannes "The Ancient Tree" Once in a while it's good to write, and read, a longer work. Enjoy.
(Revised slightly 4/25, revised stanza structure in part II. Thanks)