Else (Oct 2010)

14 Nov

We are silent for a long while.

We haven’t talked yet. It’s not that
this isn’t the right place to bring up awkward
discussions, it’s just that …

 this place; it seems
entirely irreverent to remember
the small details that piss me off.
The forest isn’t tidy.

It’s scrubby underfoot. We see shells of Rata
and skyward Rimu. I move
with my hands out, a blind person
feeling their way forward.

  And then he breathes, a subtle exclamation.
His eyes resting beyond me.
Off to one side is a dead punga trun¬k
and carved into the threads of bark

is a face.

A strong patriarchal guardian of a face.

It’s back to the creek and surveying
us. He’s like a Moai I say.
It looks both intent
and indifferent.
Gazeless eyes
long nose
long chin
a moko transplanting any expression.

Absorbed in duty.

Next to it, an old Rimu; its life shortened
I think, from a lightening strike,
  or something of that magnitude.

A dead wound of its exposed inner self
sliced jaggedly down
the northern rim of its trunk.

Death is arresting.

The bark is peeling back
like sunburnt skin of an old woman –
wrinkles so hardened a thousand stories
must exists within its folds.

Yet there is still life in this tree
in the shape of rata and ferns that grow
from the decay at sun kissed heights.
We look up, and up and up.

  The trunk is stout at the base,
meandering by the middle and at the top
reaches into nothing. It just stops
like an exclamation mark.

How long does it take to die?

I touch the tree and, like a hand
  I can’t let go
I stay, arm outstretched, fingering
rough material, appreciating the portion
that comes off as I lift my hand.

This tree is buoyant in death
it is one of those deaths that takes an eon
to surrender the complete life force.
And we have arrived in its final exhale.

There is no compulsion to move on.
The path is behind us and ahead of us
but off somewhere else. This tree isn’t about else.
It doesn’t venture an alternative to its life or death.

There is no else. There is only this.

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