Planed smooth as babies’ skin,
Your robust rocking arms
Sheltered me, cradled me, your child, from harm.
Slower than an acorn then I grew
Into a sapling child: chafing on
The wicker seats of bees-waxed
Ladder-back chairs, ungrateful,
Knowing you not. Outside again,
I hung in you, laughing, swung in you,
Clung to the cleft of your branches:
Slowly suns moved; time dawdled past.
Later, I stepped below your arching ribs
Solemn, trembling with armfuls
Of lilies, roses, ferns, carnations,
Regarding you not at all
But closer to your heart, until
I climbed, climbed the turn
Of your branches, the spindle shaft
Of a newel post, the twist of oak-beamed stairs
Through the tolling bell-tower of an ancient church
To the rocking wooden bed of a marriage.
Here in middle age,
Severed by a death
From the trunk of my own tree
I write these words at an oaken desk
And feel, gratefully now, the patina
Of venerable wood: warm
Beneath my splintered hand.
Brass handles yield up life’s secrets.
In the sheen of gold-grained oak
I find the wisdom of my mother’s heartwood.
One day I’ll learn to love
Those ladder-back chairs,
The oaken rocker where I’ll rest,
At last, rest until I rest the last
Rest, slough off this sullen skin
In the arms of a robust oaken box
Planed silken smooth as shrunken skin;
Cradled like wine in a wooden cask,
But, now, without the rocking:
Cradled in your open arms again,
Climbing you, oak, oak, to heaven.
Then out of me, yes, even me,
Will grow another oaken tree.