A GRAND TREE

It happens gradually with time, the red bark peels
like paint, brittle limbs forget berries and leaves
when the roots grow weary of holding it all together.

I’ve been here before, to this Manzanita skeleton
well off the track, half on its side. I see the cut
and know the saw I used on a huge, uprooted other

half-a-stump, limbs all gone. The wind blows cold
and wants to rain miles from home as I start my Stihl,
bales of hay to thin cows fed. One young calf,

a perfect black Hereford cross with featherneck,
bald face, thick white belly and brisket, charges
to investigate, bucks and runs in circles, disrupts us all

to stop sprattle-legged—his curly head low before me,
challenging and bawls. I laugh and talk as if he were
a kid on the street and he relaxes to his mother

and the others that must endure his bully shenanigans.
It happens gradually with time, we grow efficient,
make plans, save steps, haul hay up and cordwood

down the mountain. These limbs I don’t remember
standing haven’t been dead long, bark the color of
coagulated blood—red heart dust from a grand tree.

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