Sunday, April 08, 2012


Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I forgot how much TNT they used
To blow up the old cottonwood
Trees. Nobody really cared by then.
The trees were so far outside of town
For anyone to notice when they came down
And they were very old, couldn’t hold
Their limbs up without help.
I had lived there oh so long ago.

We were desert people, so as far
As we could see there was nothing
But sky—basin and range, basin and
Range, and I lived in those trees,
Didn’t want to touch the ground
From the time I was two.

I thought I was a bird. My mother
Says I had said I knew a dream
About these trees and the next morning
Felt at home there ever since.

What I could not and still cannot understand:
Why I could not fly. I could feel
The sky. I would try and try and cry and
Cry. Fall from the high limbs, sigh
And try again. I knew where I should
Be and it was in the comfort and the
Shelter of the trees.


I had cut my foot badly that morning.
I had stepped on a broken whiskey bottle
Neck that had been tossed into the leaf rubble.
I was bleeding profusely and had to have
My foot stitched up. The doctor
Sang as he stitched ‘Ach, du liber Augustin,
Augustin, Augustin,
Ach du liber Augustin,
Alles ist hin!’
As he sewed my foot.

They had buried me alive. They
Found me lying still by the side of the road,
Thought that I had died of the plague.
I woke up in a mass grave. Everything
Was gone. I was crying. ‘Lie down
In your grave sweetheart. All is
Lost. Your coat is gone. Your staff is
gone. All is gone. All is lost.'

But it wasn’t. I was not dead.
I had my pipes and began to play.
I would play my song like a bird.
I would climb high into the cottonwood
And I would be comforted
For I could no longer fly. All
Was lost. My grave was on the ground
And I would no more be on the ground.

‘Come down sweetheart.
Come down to your grave.’
And I knew I could not fly but
High, high, high above
The desert I would stay until
I could stay no longer, until all was truly
Gone and there was no other way.


Everyday was a feast,
Now we just have the plague!
Just a great corpse’s feast,
That is the rest.

Until finally they blew the
Trees up entirely, exploded
Them like Roman candles
And I came back down to earth,
Without my coat, without my staff.

The trees flamed for hours, lying next to
The huge craters where they had once
Grown. There was no more plague.
I would learn to play the pipes and I
Would sing the song of comfort in the
Trees, because I could not fly and
Always, always, I would sing this song.