SCENE: Hrothulf in the Woods.

The nut tree, wide above my head,
stretching its cool black limbs to take
the sun, sends darkness down my chest.
Its dappled, highcrowned roadways make
safe homes for birds; quick squirrels run
the veins of its treasure-giving hand;
but the ground below is dead.

Strange providence! Shall I call the tree
tyrannical, since where it stands
nothing survives but itself and its high-
borne guests? Condemn it because it sends
down stifling darkness, sucks the life
from grass, and whitens the sapling leaf
for trifling, fluttering friends?

The law of the world is a winter law,
and casual. I too can be grim:
snatch my daylight by violent will
and be glorified for the deed, like him;
drain my soil of Considerations,
grip my desires like underground stones,
let old things sicken and fail.

She touches my hair and smiles, kind,
trusting the rhetoric of love: Give
and get. But the thought flits through my mind,
There have got to be stabler things than love.
The blurred tree towering overhead
consumes the sun; the ground is dead;
I gasp for rain and wind.



copyright © 1971 by John Gardner

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