The Willow Tree
Where to Lie Down 
by Cathryn Essinger

The willow tree my husband and I were married
under forty some years ago has come down
in last night's wind, although there was no wind.

It fell without a sound, almost unnoticed, 
as if it simply chose where to lie down.  Nothing
to betray it but leaf litter and a few broken limbs.

No scuffs along the eaves, the grape arbor still
standing, bee hives intact, although the lawn
is laced with a thousand green whippets.

Inside the house, my parents are wrapping up
their lives almost as quietly--no need for talk 
when the memories are all your own.

We walk around the fallen canopy as if
it were holy.  Something massive has
happened here without much acclaim.

Here the mystery of sunlight on leaves, 
of cambium and phylum, where wood ducks
laid their eggs, taking a stand against

squirrels and raccoons. Here the lightning strike
that scarred the bark, reminding us of winter
nights when we lay in bed and listened 

as the cold tested every joint and crevice,
claimed the choicest niche until we heard
the heartwood crack and boom.  But today,

among the fallen, are the last pale blossoms
from the top of the tree, still tended by bees,
forever grateful for these spare blooms.

Cathryn Essinger is the author of four books of poetry—The Apricot and the Moon (Dos Madres Press), A Desk in the Elephant House (Texas Tech University Press), My Dog Does Not Read Plato (Main Street Rag), and What I Know About Innocence (Main Street Rag). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The New England Review, and Rattle. Her poems also have been featured on The Writer's Almanac and reprinted in American Life in Poetry.

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