Sam Taylor

Douglas Fir

This tree has stood here
in this one spot, growing
a few inches each year
while men have waged wars
and cheated on wives,
built ships, crossed oceans

with guns and horses and
slaves; while they have written
down book after book
describing the world,
proposing religious principles,
and scientific theories,

while they have explained
the grass, the river, the soul;
while they have mapped lands
as yet unknown to them,
while they have gone out
every day into the fields,

while they have died inside
coal mines, built cities
from the ruins of forests,
while they have swept
across continents
with the steel will of God;

this tree has stood here
simply rising, finding all
it needed in the one spot
where it was born, sixty yards
from the braided flash
of water called Rock Creek,

now in a language no one
here spoke when the tree was young.
It has lived in the nameless
sound of water pouring
through water night after night
for six hundred years

while Cortez deceived
the Aztecs, while Narvaez
fed the mothers of chiefs
to his dogs, while boats
carried off ten million
African men and women,

while the sugarcane rose
overnight, was gleaned,
appeared on finely set
tables in Amsterdam
and London, as fine, white
powder pure as snow,

while a blacksmith smelted
ore into oar locks and chains,
while they rusted between
voyages, between storms,
while Jefferson wrote
all men, while he wrote equal,

this tree stood here
simply rising, its branches
holding the turning night
of stars and the darkness
turning into dawn, day
into night, night into day,

each like a breath, exhaling
the summer grasses,
inhaling the moonlit snow.
While men have turned on
their lights, one by one,
at first with awe, then

in sleep—as they have turned on
their radios, their phones,
their washing machines,
their televisions, their cell phones,
as they have lived inside
their lights, their images, their sound.

As they have built roads
through the pores of the dusk,
as corporations bought up
the dust of the land,
this tree has stood here
in the felt music of the earth

giving its neck and eyes
to the mist. While heretics
burned, while women burned
while black churches and
black men on crosses
burned, while the fruit trees

of the Navajos burned,
while the fields burned,
always the same jeweled tongues
leaping from the fire
roiling through the human heart,
while the World Trade Center

burned the tallest flame,
while the skin of Hiroshima
burned, while men, burning, hovered
before the burning TV
watching the burning,
this tree has stood here

in this one spot, simply rising
each spring another ring
buried so deep now
you could never find it,
deep as the owl
that called on those nights,

deep as the snow
that fell into its arms,
leaving the ground below
bare and dusted, as all around
the elk passed sinking
up to their ribbed hulls.

It has turned the snow
Into a sky of leaves, the sun
Into bulbous muscle,
While the deer stepped
Out of the willows
At dusk, while beavers

Dragged branches of felled
Aspen across the grass,
While people, who have
Now vanished, camped nearby
Among the vanished cries
Of the wolf, it grew,

While fires no one recorded
Skirted its bark in flames,
While lightning cleft its trunk,
It grew, and the grasses spilled
Their generations of seed,
And the hawks circled.

It has stood here rising
For six hundred years
And it is here now
In your life, as you rise,
Watching, as you watch,
The sky shade magenta,

Flash mauve, you can go touch it,
You can sit beneath it, stand
Together in the same sky
Remembering whatever
You remember
From your days on earth;

You can ask yourself
What would it be for a person
To rise up like that,
You can wait for an answer,
As all around you
Everything happens.