I loved this old crooked tree
that refused to grow straight
with the sky but willed itself
to stretch with the horizon,
limbs resisting what every oak
near it wanted— to kiss the sun.
It had a brother, long since cut down,
its stump never uprooted, ground to chips.
Decades of weeping, trying to caress its kin,
had left it defiantly stunted, a hunchback
to its grief, its refusal to be another proper tree,
limbs desiring earth’s comfort to cloud’s hope.
The tornado swept south and
my old brick house was
left a blasted finger to its whims.
The old crooked tree was uprooted
like all the others oaks, yet granted the mercy
of caressing its waiting brother in its final fall.
My wife spent the time after the uprooting
like all the others after the storm,
dealing with the adjusters, collecting
the ashes, saving the memories that remained.
No thoughts of trees preoccupied her
and I was convalescing from cancer surgery.
Before we moved into a temporary place,
before the winds of rebuilding where beginning,
I asked for a quick drive by to see the damage
because I only imagined the destruction
from the aching confines of a hospital bed
and needed to firmly root it to mind and soul.
The reality was a little worse than the imagining.
The roof was gone, only an L of bricks remained.
The PTSD, anxiety, the sheer exhaustion
was already planting in my wife.
I cried for her. I cried for the last sight
of the old tree hugging stump, earth beneath.