The bark of the old oak shows its wrinkles, scars
written on the vellum of its years, a new ring
spans the finger of its heart, a summer’s history
almost soldered as its sparse leaves crinkle;
sap withdraws in August Drop before painting
the oak then falling to mulch and feed the tree.
This oak has seen our planet change with time
its rivers tamed, fields, and its villages and coasts
redrawn, kings’ rule and die as all men do
their legacy and palaces razed or democratized.
Its seen Sahara’s sands creep to the sea,
ice thicken or melt around the pole’s,
jungles spread, retreat and species change
men flee from famine, war, women weep
and children starve or die upon the sea.
Encased within the chrysalis of power
oligarchs, dictators wield transient decrees
with the cold eyes and furrowed faces age bestows;
for gold and power strips their hearts, yet
their bones will lay with poor men in the earth.
Whose riches can sustain both man and beast
if kindly managed like this ancient oak,
tending to all a share that gives food and cloak
and with respect shelter from the storms of life.
Stripped bones give no hint of state or faith
when they rise with movement of the plant’s shell?
Ground by magma, rock, wave or fire to dust
they may well blow upon the wind to fall
on foreign fields forgotten by their folk.
Each of us is but an oak leaf in Earth’s time;
life a summer’s span before September’s age,
precursors November’s fall to earth and death’s
transformation to mulch to feed the oak afresh.
© Carolyn O’Connell