Last year for an elm

Losing a large, old tree can be something like losing a human friend.  We might notice a bit of weakening here and there, but till a sickness is far advanced we often don’t realize how little time is left, how little we can do.  It is good during the Thanksgiving season to think of the ones among us, or gone before, and thank them for the many things they’ve given us, whether or not we ever said so before.


siberian elms denuded

Your trunks stand high yet narrow,

twiggy forms against the dark blue sky

with its paintbrush swipes of cloud

This spring you worked so extra hard

pushing forth those jagged edged leaves

of yours, from darkened wood,

hanging with the slightest pulse of sap.

Fellow siberians were completely done

with greening out before you really started,

weakened as you were by beetles and disease

Some had given up on you, yet some

strength remained beneath your bark

And once your leaves were out no one

would think how sickly you’d appeared

just two weeks before.

All summer you offered yourself,

your bark, your leaves, strong limbs,

your shade, anchoring roots and sap

From your apparent life

others drew your strength

into their own lives.

Hefty ravens, burly doves, tiny warblers,

flitting hummingbirds alike

found homes, a refuge, because

you stood there one more year


Today your hard born leaves

came shimmering down for hours

Pale in fall’s dark gold

Each leaf riddled through with holes

that merciless banded beetles made.

In this land of little shade it is a sadness

to lose such a one as you, even though

your species is reviled, invasive,

in August heat you are revered.

Your last brave stand is mourned,

my friend, you will be missed

in our dusty, desert world.

siberian leaves fallen


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