Elegy for the Sycamores I: The Lie I Tell My Granddaughter

The sycamores have surrendered their leaves

and I tell her they’re deep into winter sleep,

though inside I worry for these naked trees—

the sentinels of a time that has passed.

“Why do you care about nature so much?”

she asks as we walk through a dry stream bed.

With careful footing around stream boulders

I manage to sidestep complete honesty

and try to protect this five-year-old child.

How can I tell her that care is urgent

now that nature is threatened with death—

that the passion I feel is more intense

when it’s almost too late, when loss becomes real?

Soon enough she may live in an age when

little is left of these trees except ash,

the Southwestern sky is often smoke grey

and life is a dry stream of regret.

So I cling to my lie like fungus on trees.

I pretend for us both I’ve borrowed her world

to be returned in good enough shape

like a puzzle returned with one piece gone.

But I bury the lie when I need to sleep.

It’s hard enough now just to live with my grief.

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