Witness Trees

          1.          We’ve lived here long enough
                        to have unfolded maps
                        generations before us charted,
                        each making its claim,
                        albedos grown dark,
                        but the abiding lies
                        the same mare’s nest
                        it takes lifetimes to untangle.

          2.          It started to cool at noon
                        and we turned back along the ridge
                        we climbed all morning,
                        a glimmering sound following
                        close behind us on the trail,
                        and when we glanced back
                        sleet passed through vermilion
                        limbs of larches and tapped
                        fronds of yellow bracken—
                        an ambient hiss and then
                        its soft withdrawal.

          3.          Alongside Talking Water Creek,
                        in a grove of joyous pines,
                        we renewed vows
                        after forty years, departed
                        during the Days of Awe,
                        and, arriving home in the valley,
                        smashed all our cracked
                        and chipped crockery with a sledge,
                        all the scattered shards
                        of insult, severings, and slander
                        we can’t bind or undo—
                        and extended our hands
                        in offering to the trees.

David Axelrod’s recent collection of poems is The Open Hand (University of Washington Press, 2017). He is also the editor of basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts. This poem is from The Northern Sorrow Monkey, forthcoming.