On My Son Ben

I know a tree where you used to play,
a hundred townies’ names
sliced into its tattered trunk,
a vast beech with serpentine arms
that have long reached over
our local young and youthful loves,
sheltering them like the hood of the cobra
that sheltered Shakyamuni from the rain.

And here at the feet of this god,
I stand with my handful of ashes,
looking everywhere for your name,
while the evening breeze
sleepwalks through the woods,
setting the high leaves rocking
like a belfry of gentle paper bells.
The birds sing indifferent songs
to an indifferent, sinking sun.
A lone late robin
dithers an addled repetition:
Is it so? It is so. Is it so? It is so.

I scatter your grit and stare upward
into the height of the tree and think:
here you played—but played what?
and think I’ll play a tree,
your name
carved within me.

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