ON MY 45TH BIRTHDAY
I rise and dress in the dark,
before the house stirs,
before the sun peaks above the mountain,
and precisely because I long to do things
I have not yet done
I walk into a shadowed wood.
Below me, in the Arboretum,
the houses sleep in a lazy mist,
betrayed by the occasional blinking eye
of a stray bathroom light —
some husband or wife
readying for the day,
a day like any other Monday, really,
except that it’s a rusty bookmark
stuck in the center of my life’s slim volume:
a book half-written, so few chapters
My favorite place is here in Washington Park,
among these redwoods
where a vast cedar deck clings
to the side of a treed ravine and hangs on
the way most men hold to insults or money.
Sitting here on this faded gray bench,
I crane my neck.
Look up and see the crowns
of the great sequoias coming into view
in the morning light,
trees themselves that are middle-aged,
standing here seven hundred years.
How is it I never stretched out my hapless arms
and tried to hug one of them before?
How is it I never knew their bark is soft,
pliable and accommodating as a sponge?
Some Europeans call the sequoia the boxing tree.
You can strike it with your fist and it takes
no notice, the bark yields
and resumes its former shape.
Perhaps this is what it takes to grow so tall.
To live so long.
— AE Hines
Originally published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Vol. II, 2017.