I have seen a tree split in two
from the weight of its opposing branches.
It can survive, though its heart is exposed.
I have seen a country do this too.
I have heard an elder say
that we must be like the willow—
bend not to break.
I have made peace this way.
My neighbors clear-cut their trees,
leaving mine defenseless. The arborist
says they’ll fall in the first strong wind.
Together we stand. I see this now.
I have seen a tree grown around
a bicycle, a street sign, and a chainsaw,
absorbing them like ingredients
in a great melting pot.
When we speak, whether or not
we agree, the trees will turn
the breath of our words
from carbon dioxide into air—
give us new breath
for new words,
new chances to listen,
new chances to be heard.
Copyright © 2021 by Rena Marie Priest. Originally published in Spark: The Magazine of Humanities Washington, 2021, issue 2. Used with the permission of the poet.