Standing outside the front door
of a house my parents used to own
is a willow tree still standing guard
representing the law as we knew it.
Once I ran down the block
to get out of reach of one of its limbs
I heard my mother yell
I’ll see you come around again
take the first strikes
be a man
like Ali with Foreman
stand in there
the pain subsides
the terror does too
all absorbed by a willow tree
that must be black by now at its roots.
The screen doors slammed
the windows broke
racing around in chaotic circles
burr headed children in full throated routes
both hands out in front of them
somehow uncut by the glass
stuff a book down the back of your pants
and it will give off a hollow sound.
A three bedroom house
a thousand square feet
with eight kids repeat
what kind of people
can raise eight kids.
It’s the number of infinity darlin
four boys and four girls
A perfect balance at least
until that Estrogen thing
tipped the scales.
If there were ever a living breathing family tree
I would say the willow was ours
for it bent without breaking numerous times
I don’t know if anyone carved their names into it
but through the hole in the hedge
you might buy just a second enough
to duck out of sight before realization set in
and someone was breaking off a limb for you.
Chaos breeds anarchy
but fear at the end of the day
beats respect in a pinch
silence fell upon the room
and the blue light danced against the living room curtains
and I watched from my bedroom door
while Ed Sullivan shewed
or Hee Haw frollicked in the cornfield.
It’s been twenty five years
since I called it my home that town
thirty eight since we moved out of that house
and the pity is I’ve often gone there
looking for something close
to the accident that was created there.
That willow tree I’ve never forgotten
those people I’ve never forgotten
and though its roots are black I’m sure
you couldn’t kill it now even if you wanted.