The Absence of a Tree

— Haris Adhikari

i.

A couple of years ago
a tree’s decaying stump jutted from the ground; and now
there’s no trace of it.
The absence
propels my thoughts
speeding up and slowing down,
embracing the tree’s trunk . . . 

He-he . . . That was fun . . . for real.
Three boys acting out  
the popular   
pamphlet motto—  
“Save trees, save lives.”

But oh, my big brother
did cut it down … just as he was meaning to.
He said it cast shadows and shades
in the field, destroying the crops.

ii.

Now I wonder if there are
any of its roots remaining.
Are they still there—tightly held
by the cold—or warm soil?
Or just gone to dark, shrinking hollows?

Oh!
What comforting feelings they still bring!
Those roots will always uphold
that jamun* tree, and the tree
will always bear
small black jamun, with their rich smell
wafting along, with their astringent
yet sweet taste—with the color purple—
always on my tongue—until
my memory dies away.
He-he . . . They’ll live in me!
As long as I live with them!

iii.

That tall tree, a bit slanted,
was alone in the entire cornfield.
There were steps cut into its big trunk
but they weren’t my size.
And by the time I got to its first fork,
I always incurred those little scrapes
that gave a burning feel on my little thighs …
I didn’t care! I had to show
that I, too, could climb. He-he . . .
No complaints nor cries!  

I felt sad when I was unable
to climb up the second fork.
The upper part screeched and vibrated
if the day was windy.
That part was stone-dry
and forbidden. The bigger boys?
They didn’t care. They enjoyed
climbing higher up the trunk and shouting
with gusto into the big hole that was
a little above the second fork.

I’d gaze up and listen to the echoes—
not content with only my name
whittled on the bottom side bark
of the second fork, I wanted to grow
like Hanuman* in the Ramayana!
All these memories bring
a smile, a teasing smile, now,
to my disillusioned face.

iv.

The absence of that tree
left a clear vision across the horizon;
far too clear,
indeed, that’s what I realized
the last time I was there—

far away from this metro(polish!),
a relaxing retreat, an eye opener
to the wisdoms of all
that is … absent
and all that is present.

I long to go there again
I long to embrace
the tree that isn’t there!

_____________________
*Jamun—Jambolan tree
*Hanuman—devotee of Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, and his wife Sita; according to the Ramayana, Hanuman was invincible and could grow into any size and form he wanted. 

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