Big Red “Oke”

I recall a late autumn afternoon

Reclined in the long, golden grass on a bluff above the Flint River

In the shadow of an old Southern Red Oak

I have seen its presence marked “Big Red Oke”

On survey maps from 1821

The year they signed the treaty designed

To create ghosts upon the land

Manifest only in shards of pottery and sharpened stone

But the oak has seen more;

It has seen the lives of people played out

Beneath the reach of its limbs

While its roots continued to search and spread and branch

Through the soil on which feet tread above

Generations of folly, laughter, tears, joy, and pain

Yes, all of that even before the longleafs were cleared

It saw the ground broken open by the plow

The first cotton seed zipped into this dirt, behind a mule,

Plowing lines across the fields

As straight and neat as a soft pair of corduroy pants

The oak stood in silence as my Great Grandfather’s oxen

Pulled cypress logs up the bank from the bottomland below

To be hewn in the sawmill across the field

Outlasting the cypress, the stilled-steel blades of the mill, and my Great Grandfather

The oak stands in its quiet strength

Save for the leaves that now fall around me

In the breeze that whispers through the long, golden grass

to the roots that continue to search and spread and branch below

©2019 Lenny Wells

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