Jane Mead
But What if, as Is

often the case, it takes
months, years even for that
specific tree to finish
falling, and furthermore

all during that time
lots of birds nest
in that tree, and the tree
and the birds call each other

into existence, mutually,—
meaning what if we really
aren’t the center of
our spectacularly uncentered

universe but, rather, the tree,
the sound of it falling is what
calls us forth, and then here it is,
taking us months, years even—

beginning with its creaking
in the whispering wind, working
up to the tiniest of crackings—
and then another patient waiting

for the song of eleven strong
rains, a magic number of fogs
and a certain added heaviness
of moss, until finally, and right

between two of the smallest
units of time (the size of which
of course do not exist, yet are
hauled back now for this occasion

from the land where a duck set out
across a pond and was left
in eternal exhaustion to his own
personal so-close-but-yet-so-far)

what if, that is, it’s months
before the split tree splits
a little farther (twice as far,
exactly say, as the first split)

and it does this splitting almost
soundlessly, save for a branch
that hits its neighbor’s branch,
sounding like a distant .22,

and what if the decisive crack
will come in a future emptied
completely of the likes of us
(by the very likes of us)

yet, still, I am here now, near that
aforementioned and graceless
shifting and it takes me
back to the guns of my childhood—

and what if I want that to count,
that little crack, so that the memory
now, and therefore the childhood
are called with me into existence,

meaning back into existence,
and another memory tags along,
for it is a part of that same
childhood, the memory of imagining

a tree and a forest to give some life
to a question, couldn’t it somehow
all add up, the trees, the moss,
the puny cracking, to me—

existing, every atom of me
so that I might have this chance
to ask you (who are a problem
for another day) what brand

of confusion it would take
for what manner of pervert to ask
that particular question
of a potentially invisible child?

Found In Volume 29, No. 01
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  • Jane Mead
Jane Mead
About the Author

Jane Mead is the author of several books of poetry, including The Usable Field (Alice James, 2009).  A recipient of awards and fellowships from the Whiting, Lannan, and Guggenheim foundations, she is poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at New England College.