Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


My Father. A Tree.

Today, longing for my father, 
I saw a solitary bleached owl skim 
the dark grasses. It swept so low 
to the ground it might have buried itself. 
I did not know my father so how could I 
be lonely for that guardian?

When I was a newborn, I didn’t let
my father hold me. I cried in his presence
till my mother came. My father would shrug, 
lean into his high backed chair, to read the paper,
to smoke his pipe while he heard his wife
sing to his only daughter. 

In the woods, I summon him
and my eyes fool me as a dark haired
jay shifts a twig, or a stone rolls 
into the creek. I think I hear his footsteps
on the path, but it is only the oak
hip twitching to the afternoon’s cold wind. 

When I was born, he must have felt
the rupture in his chest, dark matter funneling
through his veins, and he must have known 
he would not be here for the rest but he ushered 
me into that brightly lit room, the earth
with all its lumen.

Father, I know you are here, 
the only place you must be, 
where the heavy branches 
lean into bright air.

I put down my sack to eat everything
I have carried with me. When I am done, 
the ants come swarming in to take 
the last of it, to cleanse the earth 
of abundance and discard.

Walking in these woods, I believe
that tall shadows and shifts of light 
mean that something is at work beyond me. 

Midway home and the redwood
are letting go their furious scent,
where you are the tree left standing
and I am this frozen salt flat, 
hemisphere of crushed snow. 

Credit


Copyright © Tina Chang. Used with permission of the author.

Author


Tina Chang

Born in 1969, Tina Chang was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop for her debut collection Half-Lit Houses. She is the poet laureate of Brooklyn.

Date Published: 2020-12-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-father-tree