Monday, May 6, 2013

Planting A Sequoia, by Dana Gioia


Planting A Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the
            orchard,

Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing
            the soil.

Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it
            over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first
            son’s birth –
An olive or a fig tree – a sign that the earth has once
            more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new
            stock into my father’s orchard.
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple
            boughs,
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our
            native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an
            infant’s birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can – our labour and our
            soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by
            the circuit of bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in
            western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn
            brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn
            down,
His mother’s beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and
            ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

            by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter, 1991

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