IN THE SHADOW OF THE HANGING TREE AT GHOST RANCH, NEW MEXICO
Colder shortened nights turn this cottonwood gold, the hanging tree.
A dozen decades ago, the rustler-murderer-thief died here.
We linger in the tree’s stretched shadow.
My teacher reads Rilke, you must change your life.
Such limbs this tree has dropped, scars heart high
tell of dropped arms of old heft and time.
Was it a night noose, that dangling
strangle that let his wife and child flee
to the reservation? Did the judge
cut down the dead bad man
like the witch that slowly opens
an oven door?
This hanging tree foregoes
dirges when dying is done,
sustains a violin and cello duet
of sunset’s purple haze that invites
the deer to sneak near.
Growing on. Bark braids like river deltas.
A hole near the roots where rot begins
and a solar path light comes on low
so we see every pixel of the Milky Way.
A tree that drops the gold switches children
flick to slap their thighs, that the lover
lifts in humor to bless the head of his beloved.
In the late-in-the-day shadow-cast of a witness tree,
cottonwood bark grooves
stand out like flood-prone valleys.
I lean back to share Basho’s simple sentence
Come see the true flowers of this pained world.