Storyteller and juggler of a dragon’s hoard
among its higher branches. Only the brave
Boards are nailed into its trunk
the means to reach enlightenment
and the gallows
where GI Joe and Barbie hang
between ribs eyes plucked out
Higher up is a nursery of cicadas
in the night leaving their husks
into the hulk by barbed legs
like the cannons and broken carriages
of a fleeing army.
Still visible are battle scars from last
when the Wind Giant cocooned the Ash
in a tin
patio roof bent to its magic and
with the Ice Giant’s diamond touch.
Two. Conjoined at the hip
their long stiff forked trunks
share sap and the shade
of their umbrella canopy
held up by arms too high
and far apart to embrace the other
or the newborns passed through
the makeshift triangle they’ve made
for a lifetime of fortune and luck.
Otherwise no one comes near
wary of the poisonous berries offered
like sweets from a child-snatcher
relieved that their home is spared
when the Wind Giant uproots and hurls
the pair like a discus at the Ash
who catches and lays them gently down.
Its bark is charred and clawed
by those who cling to its side and beg
its leaves are long and thin talons
grown from spindly little fingers limp
until an ankle is grabbed and held high
over the knotted maw opening at the center.
Its branches are haggard wrapped in
wisps of soul like creeping mistletoe
its soil barren littered with the sacrifice
of rabbits so that no one else is taken.
Harbinger of evergreen forests
and winter storms six months of blackness
burst pipes and frozen swimming pools
nevermind that this tree stands three feet
lacks pine cones and lush prickly branches
Winter comes southward bound.
A wake littered with towns without power
windows and doors packed high with snow
the old and infirmed dying in their beds
the Wind Giant and Ice Giant arrive
drunk and soiled give one bleak blast
then pass out on the welcome mat
by morning banished by sun and heat
unabashed unlike the pine who leans
like a spent disappointing Christmas tree.
A phalanx assigned to this neighborhood
lines both sides of the street
two per house pillars of the community
shading families from the harsh heat
and light that can burn flesh within minutes.
Stealthily a virus takes hold in the sap
planted by beetles yellowing leaves
at the height of summer then leaps the gap
to the outstretched tips of the next tree.
Limbs wither and fall dent roofs and crack glass
knock the paperboy off his Schwinn spilling
news of recession and war across the grass.
Staying outside the reach of the elms’ shadow
neighbors gather in twos and threes
plan the night of the long blades
when elms come crashing to their knees
hewed and hacked and pulped by a mob
who slice their own hands in dark fury
blind to what’s infected. Come sunrise
not one elm still stands among the flurry
of sawdust swirling and clinging like snow
to their stained clothes hair and faces
turned toward the first rays of light touching
them and the earth setting it all ablaze.
Tomb effigy no one knows
from where or how.
No remnant roots to show off ancestry.
Just point to its blackened hull
—by fire or lightning’s hand
—and this is where it fell.
Children climb on it and dream.
released May 11, 2017
poetry & vocals: Charles G. Lauder Jr
other vocals: Julien Lauder-Mander
other vocals: Camille Lauder-Mander