“Why do you care about nature so much?”
she asks as we walk through a dry stream bed.
The sycamores have surrendered their leaves
and I tell her they’re deep into winter sleep,
though inside I worry for these naked trees—
these sentinels of a time that has passed.
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 too late, when loss becomes real?
Just as she clings to her failing dog
even more firmly as he shrinks to
a skeletal memory of himself.
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 project a lie for her now and
cling to it like fungus clings to a tree.
I pretend for us both I’ve borrowed her world
to be returned in good enough shape.
But I bury the lie when I need to go deep.
It’s hard enough now just to live with my grief.