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then the name and the two dates -- one morning
I stood there and did the subtraction
in my head, getting the number of years,
months, and days that the boy lived.
The young oak has grown tall now, straight-stemmed,
well above the thick stakes it is held between,
its crown shapely, its leaves rich dark green
with the special shine all living things have in
their youth. Around it its elders lean, in their contortions
from crowding, as is their nature; fallen limbs under them.
This Christmas, as on every Christmas,
now, for fourteen years, decorations have appeared
on the tree. I went up there early
one weekday morning, when nobody
would be around. I wanted the time
to study them and not get stared at.
A huge bow of shiny red plastic is tied
on the trunk this time. Globes covered with some
shiny synthetic fi ber hang from the branches:
twenty-three red ones, two blue, and in no
discernible arrangement, have hung there weeks, now,
past the holiday season, fraying and fading, in
this winter's rainstorms. They'll be taken down,
always have been. They don't get forgotten about:
the choice, arrangement, and handling of them do not
matter, Taste doesn't matter, behind them being
the grief that stays on, alive, under whatever
the rest may be by which living gets done.
There to be visited, on its occasions.
December 18, 1994