Necromancy for the Bitter

I planted a coast live oak seedling
in the front yard today,
not with my own vestigial hands, 
but through the sentinel, pallbearing palms
of an able-bodied surrogate.

I can see it now, six inches tall and
stolid against the gentle breeze—
a pittance of cupped, spiny-toothed
leaves dangling from a stem curved in
proud contrast to my corrected scoliosis.

Long after my ventilator is sent to palliate
another among the unfortunate dying
and my lungs are but dust
on a slagged pair of Harrington rods,
the little oak might be a three-foot whip,
battered but not broken by the ephemeral desert breath
that creeps over mountains named by the Spanish for
some saint that never kept their end of the deal.

If drought holds off for a year or three
and my oak escapes the quirks of fate,
one day it might spread and thrive
until its carpet of jagged leaves bloody
the bare feet of a child or passing Pomeranian
and I live again through their pain.

Copyright © 2023 by Brian Koukol. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.