Now I Do

I was surprised by your passion for trees,
as you were always indoors with your books,
away from the heat of direct contact.
You were quiet in your admiration,
yet explosive and fierce in your lament.
When Dad cut down the tree by the driveway,
the one split in half by a hurricane,
you cried and screamed—
I might as well live in a desert!
I laughed at you.
I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you.
Now I do.

To us, it was only a damaged tree.
But it was your tree.
Betrayed by nature and struck down too soon,
but it was your tree.
There are plenty of other trees, I thought.
But it was your tree.

Lately, I’ve tried to rake up old memories
of conversations we’ve had, good or bad.
Anything.
Nothing.
Affection present yet beyond my reach
(only a murmur from another room)
was enough back then.
I regret the ease of our solitude.
You had your books and black & white movies.
I, in my room with my daydreams and books
and headphones full of screeching rebellion,
naively thought you loved me
only because you had to.
We talked too little back then. Now you can’t.
I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you.
Now I do.

One day in Summer, while baking a pie,
your brain was pruned by a clot of lightning.
You can’t move the right side of your body.
Your words, always spare, are now rare trinkets,
lost in a teary babbling murmur of
babababababababababa.
I’m sorry. I wish I understood you.
But I don’t.

The same lightning that struck you killed your dad
when he was younger than I am now, and
my daughter is older than you were then.
I knew that it marked you, left you unmoored,
but it was just a story from the past.
I’m sorry. I didn’t understand you.
Now I do.

Sweet olive used to grow behind my house.
A hard freeze killed it, along with its scent.
I stare at the empty hole in the ground
where my tree used to be and cry for you.
What remains of you is withered and frail,
dug up and transplanted into hospice.
How are you
still
alive?
Why?

It destroys me that the greatest kindness
I can do for you is pray for your death.
If everything you’ve raised me to believe
is true, then I don’t want you to stay here.
Fly! Fly to the Great Cloud of Witnesses.
Escape so you can walk and talk again.
I’m sorry. I don’t understand right now.
I’m dry and drained and full of brittle dread,
drifting through anticipatory grief,
wondering who will be next from my Grove.

A voice like a gentle breeze, caressing
and counting the rings of my heart, breathes out:
Oh, Jason. You're all next. So be ready.
You never know when lightning might strike thrice.

I’m sorry. I didn’t understand You.
Now I do.