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The Sounding Ax photo

            When struck with a sounding ax, a tree’s echo indicates its health

If I swing the sounding ax

and listen to the alder.

                                                                    If I listen at the bathroom door for you

                                                                    a week after the morning nausea fades.

If the sky, like a test strip, goes lavender then cream.

If the sky hardens to glass, the alder to shatter mark.

If water or bores. If the cause matters.

If this low chime is all.

If you rise each morning

like a temple raised from leaves.

If the alder lives on, green and thirsting

for the same old light.

If you flush. If I hear you stand.

If you place your ear to the door.

                                                                     If I cover my own ears and listen

                                                                     for punk-wood, pressure.

If we debate giving up,

then lose our voices

like a screw dropped in grass.

If I sound the tree in a slow circle

and twigs fall in our hair.

If two children tumble out,

                                                                     and they look

                                                                     so much like living children,

but less visible,

nameable only in weeks.

                                                                     If we watch them draw circles with chalk.

                                                                     If they seem to know each other.

If twining. If rootedness.

If the children float back in the tree

and something happens between us,

                                                                     something like the opposite of branching,

a joining in the silence and shade.


image: Aaron Burch