An American Tree

An American Tree February 8, 2019

I’ve been here for a long time

I couldn’t say how long

Time means little to me

Beyond the story it writes in my rings


Throughout my long life

I’ve watched so many of you come and go

But I still don’t understand you


When I was much younger

I watched the red boys wrestling

Chasing each other all around me

Some used me to stop their arrows as they honed their skills

They seemed so free, like the deer who seek my shade

And the raccoon and squirrel who call me home

Then I watched all that change


As time passed slowly and I continued to grow

I watched the white skinned people come

I saw them fight with the red skins

The red boys came around much less

The white boys climbed me

And they carved things into my skin with knives


Other white skins started to cut down many of my kind

The sun began to bake the bare earth

And then they turned the earth and planted seeds

I survived their axes to watch them grow their crops


I watched the white and red people fight beneath my branches

I saw that no matter what color their skins were, they were all red on the inside

I saw so much of that red from their insides spill out onto the earth

It seeped into the soil and my roots drank it in

Forever a part of me


Later, when the red skins were all gone from here

I began to see the black skinned people come

They were led here by the white skins

They were shackled with chains and forced to work the soil the white skins had turned

I heard the sad songs that the black skinned people sang as they worked from light to dark.


Still later, I saw the black skins lose their shackles

But still they worked the land like oxen

Still they sang their sad songs


Then I saw some black skins trying to change their lives

I watched them struggle to live free as the white skins lived

I saw the white skins get scared and angry

I saw them place hoods on their heads

And one day, they brought a battered black skin to me

They put a rope around his neck

They tied that rope to me and dropped the black skin

To let him hang pendant and lifeless from my branches


As I’ve grown old I’ve seen many more of you move in

The farm fields have been replaced by many structures

Now you move very fast in large machines and take little notice of me

Now I see every shade of skin living in large shelters

You no longer fight violently under my branches as you once did

But I still sense great tension between you all


Soon, I will fall and become one with the soil I once watched you turn

With my advancing age, I don’t feel I’ve ever come to know you

I do not understand your kind

I can not comprehend why you treat each other so

I am but a tree

Perhaps it is not for me to know


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