A Christmas Tree
My father worked with his father
Leaving before dawn six days a week
Building houses on the Palisades.
On his day off
He took me up the backyard path
Far into the cold woods.
The air was ready for snow.
This comes to me now, here.
I think about the years of trees
That we have carried home,
Trees that we hunted and posed for fullness
In the vacant lot beside the church,
Then closed the deal
With the man near the burning barrel,
Sap and needles on our woolen gloves.
I tried to keep up,
Holding the saw tightly in my mittens.
Farther into the woods we moved,
Beyond the charcoal shades of branches
Flat against the coming snow.
We turned from the path and made our way
To a tufted brownweed clearing.
The woods behind absorbed our silence.
The tree stands there,
Our breaths disappear in the stillness.
On the sunless Sunday before Christmas
I freeze with the unconscious fear of Isaac.
I see beyond the tree
To the sheep on the distant ridge.
The endless woods have ended.
I want only to go home.
Poet Laureate, Diocese of Newark
Reprinted with permission from Succasunna New Jersey (Wharton, NJ: Breaking Point, 1987).