background image
The words the mother chose for
the plaque could not be more plain.
This tree was planted
in memory of
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: