Quercus shumardii

for Papa

A great tree has uprooted,
exposing the branching mass
caked in the red soil of the Western Plains.
What was parched had been made rich and loamy
by the giants that fell before,
pioneering specimens that germinated and made
a home under the endless horizon of Oklahoma.
The water that made those plants flourish
had come from England and Ireland,
from Galilee and Missouri.
The roots of those ancestors fed the saplings
of the new generation.
Entwined, two young trees grew close together,
feeding on one another,
strengthening each other’s roots.
Acorns became a thicket and then a forest,
spreading out in all directions.
The flaming red soil has changed over time,
fertilized, nurtured, enriched.
The acorns have been found scattered,
rooting in Texas and Colorado,
in Alaska and Kentucky.
A tradition of strength and serenity
tested in new soils, clays and sands,
ultisols, entisols, crider and port silt loam.
Lightning took out the second tree,
ripped away what had been life,
forcing the survivor to stretch out new branches
to cover the fallen companion,
to show strength in the face of tragedy,
to learn to love when love seemed to disappear.
The branches, sprawling out massively,
became only sparsely covered with leaves, but
never lost their majesty, their humility, kindness, dignity.
Now the great tree has joined its long-fallen partner,
stretched at the base among those it had given life to,
cradled by the thick trunks of trees
that have become mighty themselves.
They stretch impressively toward Heaven,
mimicking the once proud figures
now so apparently absent in the canopy.
The sun can once again burst through,
but this is no longer the harsh and arid place
it was when ancestors first arrived.
In the clearing a small field of flowers
will spring up in memorial,
attracting the beauty of birds and insects
until new saplings join the congregation.
That great tree is now one of the ancestors,
enriching the soils for future generations.



Brian Fuchs, “Quercus shumardii” from Okie Dokie (Scissortail Press, 2019)

Written 7 June 2014 in Glencoe, Oklahoma

HANDOUTS FROM FUNERAL (Poem included as “The Tree”)

Posted 7 June 2014

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