Poetry, VOLUME 2

Poem: “Old Toes” by Kevin Book-Satterlee [Vol. 2, #48]

Old Toes
Kevin Book-Satterlee

with gratitude to Len Sweet.

I once tried to plant a strong tree,
uproot it from a ground
deeply fertile; and this very tree
fertilized the ground
and the other surrounding trees
to boot.

Carefully I pulled out the roots,
massaged and wiped away the dirt,
a dirt so ingrained with the soil
it caused the roots to be filthy.

After traveling, the tree began
to sicken; I quickly prepared
the new ground, and thrust the tree
in.  It withered, shriveled;
producing little.

Next to that old tree replanted
I brought over a younger tree,
healthy and fertile as the first,
yet not so accustomed
to its old soil bed
as the grandfather tree once had.

The treeling was fragile, but took
to the new soil.  It buried deep,
hunkered down a bit deeper
but it never grew quite as tall
as the grandfather, and it too
produced little.

Soon other trees grew
and a lone forest stood like a column
fortress – a bastion of grouped-like
trees standing with little fruit.

This failure, the colonization of
tall, firm trees
perplexed me, wore me down.
From the grandfather and the treeling
grew others a little more indigenous
yet sheltered.  These trees that once
produced much
faltered in production.

But I tried once again to grow
the forest grove in the open field.
I bought a seedling, so fragile and fair;
Unprotected it was the tiniest of things.
I set it in the soil and watched.
When the soil dried,
I watered it, and then watched.

Soon a sprout formed with a budding
foreign leaf – unrecognizable as to its make;
it had popped from the very spot
I had planted my little seed.
This was not, however, the tree
which I’d planted.  Still, I let It grow
and watched.

A stock and leafy formation grew
and the growth of this little fragile seedling
surpassed that of the bastion of trees
with no fruit.  I’d recognized the make
of the others.

In this new tree, I found like characteristics
of the old.  The leaves, were pointed,
but rounded more.  The roots stayed shallow
at the base, whereas the others hunkered deep.
The fruit I recognized, though slightly disguised;
deeper passion exuded from this fruit, and brighter
it seemed.
I let it continue to grow.

Out of the smallness, the seedling grew
a product spawning an indigenous forest.
It surrounded the bastion of imported trees,
too dug in to integrate.
I have grown old now and still just watch,
and my seedling grows larger still.
I bask in the shade of its offspring
and let its rich soil dirty up my old toes.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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