I Climb the Old Cedar Again

By Elias Orrego

I climb with great speed,

I reach hand-over-hand,

stepping foot-over-foot,

grass below becomes smaller, and smaller.

I fly through the branches.

Swift and dreamy as the days

and the years

of a child with his mother.

I'm climbing the one with soft, fingerlike boughs,

that stands higher

than any trunk seen around.

The one I learned not to climb,

after the branch broke

(when my mother was home).

The one time I made the mistake,

I heard screaming. In an anxious,

maternal pitch,

her words shook me (but I didn't listen)

from the roots just above earth,

to the uppermost cone

that I craved.

I heard worried cries

turned to sobs

as I rode the tree down,

jumping every second

to the branch just below.

I saw a face red and trembling,

not warm with anger,

but afraid, disappointed,

the way her brows sunk--

like the branches,

when I missed a day of climbing--

into her eyelashes holding up tears,

the way tree boughs hold rain, forgiving

the uncaring night.

That was the first night that I couldn't sleep.

The first time I heard Mother coughing,

and shaking,

the stress of the day was as much

as the tree,

the time a branch broke underfoot.

That short millisecond of air,

between thinking I would die

and knowing I was safe.

Came back to haunt me.

I could see Mother at the bottom of the tree,

trembling, seeing my hang on the branch

that I grabbed just in time

scared to lose her only son.

From that day on, I waited till Mom left the house,

and the car door closed.

I would check–the exhaust puffed behind her, in the driveway.

Then, for an hour or two,

however long she was gone, at the time,

(it depended on what she was doing,

be it biopsies, check-ups,

or picking up prescriptions)

I was free

to trace my hand over the furry knots,

tug on the vines of bark strips,

bounce and swing 

on the branches curving downward

on my cedar tree.

But last night when Mother was placed on the stretcher

and carried with the oxygen tank by her side,

shut up in the emergency truck

wailing down the street,

she left for the last time.

My Aunt, who came to care for me

in the confusion of blaring sirens,

flashing red lights and tears,

still sleeps as I climb,

my way lit by the dark blue of morning.

Just barely enough to carry

my weight to the top of the tree

where I sit, long past the sun, rising

behind overcast, mourning.

One hundred feet up in the air,

a child in her arms,

I am crying

and she knows how to comfort.

She rocks me, gently

(the wind blows, surrounding me)

Sways me

as I sit on the top of my cedar

her lullaby eases my pain:

The morning birds sing

to welcome the dawn.

She holds me close, my shaking stops.

I am warm.

Clouds divide,

sun floods into the sky,

drying tears, lighting up all

I now see.


Popular Posts