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You who seek
to open my mind
to correct and inflame
with your hammers
of right, wrong
of left, right
of outrage and shame
I offer in kind
in return
for your use
of my name
and my time
these few lines:

You are driving
a nail, nothing more,
in the wood
of the shade
of a tree
that has long since
been felled
for the heat
of a fire
whose warmth
fueled the mind
of a child
who yearned
to speak,
then to learn
how to read
and to write,
and with all
of her might
tried to love
the defeated
the ostracized
insecure, blamed—
though her efforts
fell flat.

Try as she might
she couldn’t combat
the woes
of her elders
or those of
the world
though she took on
their grain, in hopes
of some gain,
of their twisted
and angry
and hopeless
while the call
to be joyful
in spite of the lack
of the love
of the ones
she adored
fell behind
and behind…

and her branches
grew out
and her roots
and she caught
in the breeze
of her leaves
now and then
the faint notion
that chances for joy
bright and new
were her right
crossed the sky
every day
if she’d only
look up and away
from the grain
she’d picked up,
but with each
of justification,
each time
she agreed
to the tedious
thump of a sounding
board for the bored
and defensive
her choices
and chances
for new joy

The sway
of her branches
grew rigid
and stiff
the flow
of her sap
thickened and
slowed, the continuous
threat of a snap
whether cold
or of temper
with each passing
night, pulled her in
turned her old
insecure, she felt
blamed and defeated.
I grow here alone
in this forest of pain,
what’s the point?
What became
of the sapling
I was? Mercy me,
of this pitiful game
I have learned
I have played
way too much.

So retracted was she
so embittered and sad
this once promising tree
that she could not perceive
the first swing of the axe,
nor the next nor the last
until she was felled
chopped to logs, slowly
feeding the fire whose
warmth fills the mind
of this child who yearns…

© Elaine Stirling, 2016