Today I saw a tree in a northern park
that slanted out as though it thought
to breach the blue horizon.
A mighty lean for a madroña,
but unknown for a white pine—
an arc-boutant of imperfection.
It was a lonely tree.
A price it paid in failing the upright
company of other trees.
It did not tower or scrape the sky
as is said of grand trees.
It did not triumph over forces
that kept it lean-limbed and low.
Prostrate, its keeling crown
an uncertain compass,
weaved elliptic O’s, and silent Om’s
the semaphore of yearning,
the defying of impasse.
By the will of wind it moaned
a beggars hymn. Bow-bent
toward hell, it did not despair.
I imagined praying roots like great
hands spanned toward the arctic.
And restive roots that felt far
into the flesh of earth,
picking up the tremolo of palmetto.
As though hearing a faint voice
it hungered to lean
farther, still farther,
and touch the Southern Cross.