A Great Tree
It's my hands I see first. Sculpted like ice, like clay, its creases permanent. Then I look up. My neck cracks, but molds into the image, bricks, light competing with the stars, black hoods. I feel the scattered remains of trees scream to me, ask to be sprouted again. One stands magnificent over its fellow residents. A great tree. I feel a magnet in my chest, pulling me towards it.
I stumble through the obliterating numbness. There's a dull shout, but I focus my vision ahead. To the leaves and the veins so intricately woven from bark to branch. A fence folds in around it, scraped against the rough texture of its limbs. I latch my fingers to it, prick away at the wiring. My breaths are one with the tree. I feel its gasp for relief, watch its leaves stretch to sunlight.
Something travels up my nose and melts my lungs. I see it. Like the old steamboats, but strapping out of the roof of a long rectangular house with thousands of windows. I feel the tree groan with me, begging relief of the smoke, of the equivalent to fire, being burned alive. It's up my sleeves and arms. I can't snuff it out.
I must be on an invaded planet. We must be at war. But the young couple on a nearby bench, a brother of the great tree, with their faces intimate, prove otherwise. A foreign city, somewhere I haven't seen. I must have been transported.
But the sign. Tranchestor Avenue. I recognize it and my lips tingle, recognizing a feeling of another set against them. I met someone here. Bright blue eyes. There was a house, and for each tree chopped another one was planted. We were the town freaks, those who saw the beauty of the forest. But I don't see a forest. I see a tree.
I can't remember her name, but I remember blue eyes, like the sky on a clear day. If I could ring a name familiar, I would grant its beauty to the tree instead, for she could not still live in a place such as this. But an image, her stomach rounded, overwhelms me. I stumble from a flashing light, from a large yellow car with a capped man inside, and latch back onto the tree bark. I wrap my arms around it. I feel as if it is all that's now left of the great forest, where our cabin once laid. But I can't explain it.
Her stomach. Swelled. A child. Blue eyes.
Something sniffs. This is different from the engines going down the black pavement, or the fumes out of each house, or the buzz of fake lights. I recognize it as something my own face might do. The sound of humanity. The last remains of what I heard out of myself or her when she suddenly wasn't there anymore. When there was blackness.
Another sniff. On the other side of the tree. Could it be...
I circle to the other end, thinking that perhaps she might still be here. Waiting by the tree. Or even with another man, wrinkled but beautifully aged, happy to live on without me. That is how I would see it. A happy life.
But it is not her. A young lad is kneeled before the great tree. His eyes are closed, face is familiar, but I know I haven't seen it. Just as the tree. My heart stumbles at plastered brick beside the tree's roots. Something is carved inside.
In Remembrance of Frank and Margarate Tale, 1917-1952.
Then another stone to its side, connected by a bronze formation of a robe:
And their daughter, Mary Tale, 1982
Mary. The name we had agreed on.
I stare at the rope, a bronze symbol with a slight noose. 1952. Impossible. That was the year I left her. 1952, when the world became blackness. I remember her, strawberry curls, the oceanic eyes. Her years ahead. Her rounded stomach with spring and life inside. Thirty-five. She was thirty-five as was I, school lovers to embark on a world's great journey.
Wait by the tree, I had said.
My eyes are dry. I turn back to the sniffer and step closer. The boy is much too young to be a lover, young as a mourner who knows not his grief. Too much shine in his eyes to be in some preserved state like myself. But I recognize pride in his deep frown, and I know he has planted the great tree.
Then I see an ancient rope in his hand. He flinches and stares at me, and I see the blue eyes of the sky.