Had my brother and I not planted
the pine saplings we brought home
from school forty years ago,
had we not watered them and spread
fertilizer around the roots, the yard
of the house we grew up in would not

have smothered under a blanket of cracked
and fallow needles. Were it not for their
height, their naïve placement beneath
the power lines, too near the neighbor’s
fences, his widow would not have had them
cut to stumps, their irregular rings

bared and countable. I wish they were
not—then would I not return there
almost every winter looking for what
once was, a bright future coming
toward us, we thought, to bathe us
in its light like water, not sever us

with its lightning like a chainsaw.


From Instructions for Seeing a Ghost (University of North Texas Press, 2020) by Steve Bellin-Oka. Copyright © 2020 by Steve Bellin-Oka. Used with permission of the author.