Happy 12,000th Birthday
Entry for 2017-08-07


In central Pennsylvania, botanists discovered a box huckleberry covering an area of nearly 100 acres. Adding roughly six inches a year, the huckleberry's underground runners would achieve that size in about 12,000 years, rivaling the bristlecone pine of the southern Rockies as the oldest living thing on earth.

Before the pyramids arose,
before the Druids or the ark,
before invention of the hose,
the sprinkler or the public park,
before Methuselah was born,
before the Trojans met the horse
or Joshua put lips to horn,
before the Vikings took to oars,
or Percival saw the holy cup,
or the Spanish fleet was put to rout,

the bristlecone was reaching up,
the huckleberry reaching out,

the bristlecone arising to
occasions dimly understood,
the huckleberry inching through
the secret regions of the woods,
one horizontally deployed,
the other vertically inclined,
two giants of an age destroyed
by second-growths within the mind
of homo sapiens---lately crowned,
busier than worker bees,
more possessive of the ground,
and more consuming of the trees:
trees from which he late descended,
worshipper of word and number,
not of roots---these he amended:

Trees shall now be known as "lumber."
Animals are "meat" and "pelts,"
Vegetables are what he cans,
Minerals are what he smelts,
And all is owned, and all is Man's

A hundred twenty centuries
before the potting of the palm,
before alloy technologies
had spawned the ersatz tannenbaum,
before expressway cloverleaves
where little else but vetch survive
migrations of the SUVs,
before the bus or train arrived,
or fly-ash flecked the noonday blue,
or "Timber!" had become a shout,

one bush, one tree, collected dew,
one growing up, one growing out,

and redstarts nested in the dense
embrambling, and thrush patrolled:
free foragers before the fence,
sweet singers to a silent world

Now ancient fauna burn as oil
and ancient flora burn as coal
while fossil cataloguers toil
to chart each body void of soul---
distinctions which these two ignore,
two titans drinking from the skies,
the riches of the earth still stored
in branches where the saps still rise

Twelve thousand years ago, a seed,
just that, just dropped among the trees,
no one to spray or prune or weed,
no smudgepot warmth, no nurseries,
no birthdays, just new rings of wood,
no requiems when the count was high:
one day too old to be much good;
the next, too marvelous to die

Something quickens in the bark.
Something tentative turns true.
Some mysterious fluid spark
ignites an ancient pulse anew.
It quivers to the owl's first hoot
at dark, a half inch into spring,
and morning shows one fragile shoot:

the youngest oldest living thing
pokes into life, or death, and doubt
but reaches up, and reaches out