[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]
The Arms of Three Men
I’m scanning the forest for longleaf pines,
searching for the largest, alive or dead
or dying, lightning-struck, over-beetled.
Trees lean from the strain of tapping —
ax cuts angled like chevrons, slaves charged
with daily quotas, decades of tars dripped,
resins cupped from basins, overseers counting
the pines missed, the quarter-acres ignored.
I take to clasping pines. Bark weeps
at my fingers. I measure deadfall, decipher stumps
ringed by curling pages, wonder that three men
had time for holding hands, spanning trees.