The Old Horsey Tree

The Horsey Tree—January 1, 2022

When I was a boy I didn’t know there were others like it:
“The horsey tree,” we called it;
The only tree I knew with an elbow,
Like a flexed bicep of one of the gods,
Except more alive, more godlike.
It was an ancient relic
Living in my grandparents’ back yard,
Where time stood still for a season,
As the earth grew a memory of Home.

At the appointed time every summer
The grandkids eagerly mounted its saddle,
Like the heroes of old on the back of Pegasus,
So our parents could capture another still shot
That showed how much we’d grown from the last
So much faster than that tree—
Cropped down to a yardstick
To compare the years.

In time we grew too big, or embarrassed,
To ride or climb that tree together.
We learned to stand upright, like mannikin lords,
With Creation staged in the background
Until finally, the horsey tree fell out of the frame,
Where the Garden withers in a graveyard of days,
Where Poseidon drowns in the seas of Neptune.

Moments trapped breathless behind cellophane pages
Are all that is left of that short season,
That now only measure how quickly we outgrow our gods
In pictures that fail to show our size for the trees,
Nor capture that image of Home beyond houses.

Now I stand on the other side of the camera,
Watching faces that won’t sit still,
Throwing out shoes that no longer fit,
Trying desperately to capture that same image
I always managed to escape as a child—
Of a world in full bloom outside the frame
That only grandchildren can see, that parents can only remember,
Where boys grow as slow as trees,
Where the day is never buried in the years.

My grandparents now live among old roots
And the horsey tree lives in someone else’s yard,
Still standing, at Home, flexed firmly in its place,
Buried deep in the dirt of the dead,
Growing slowly in a memory of the gods.

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