Every tree is an ancestor tree, 
not just grandfather redwoods. 
Every sapling, every sprout, 
carries that majesty, 
the dissolution of stone and bone, 
of mold and leaf and tongue, 
flowing as freely as blood 
in earth's leisurely body, 
the oldest and slowest rhythms 
crooning in its ways.

But who can sing with maple and beech 
in the cold wind's demanding meters? 
The crimson and gold of their dying fall 
choke the singing of our blood.
We cling to the tree of our moment, 
weep for its unleaving; our mothers 
and brothers, so recently fallen, 
neither flow in the roots 
nor creep upward under the bark 
nor come to rest in orderly rings.

We know where our flesh is buried, 
know the place and mark it, 
but also know the repetend, 
know the flesh will bend 
to the root, creep in the trunk, 
sing in the leaf, 
fall and repeat itself, 
old as every wizened oak, 
old as the sap and sea salt 
in every infant's blood.

From Every Infant's Blood: New and Selected Poems by Graham Duncan. Copyright © 2002 by Bright Hill Press. First appeared in Phase and Cycle literary magazine (now defunct). Reprinted by permission of Bright Hill Press. All rights reserved.