On Summer Afternoons, even as the Shadows Cast Their Nets
Rodney Torreson

I’d get away, walk way back through corn rows all aflutter
to a stash of pasture in the lowlands beside the dredge ditch,
be it under the sun or sometimes after a rain,
when clay would make its mischief, clamping onto my soles
as the sun recouped, my stride breaking through the vines,
whatever fight was in them.  Though puberty stewed,
trying to dedicate my flesh to shame, I’d breathe big and full,
feel the rising of my ribcage, preferring when cool winds
were mixing it up, whistling through the culvert, sloughing off
horseflies before they’d affix themselves to my flesh.

Near the stream was a towering oak, which welcomed me
with over a hundred years of growth into the sky,
its boughs, thick and decisive about the many directions
that it was sprawling—in the tree’s long, loping upward way,
giving me solace about my leaning every which way
in my own leafy thoughts.  I would shinny up
and sit on the one bough that was most horizontal
in its ambition and didn’t insist of me spiraling perfection,
a tree never frank as a fence line about anything,
but invited me to linger and be lifted as if I were its own leaf.

Still, since I was me, my mind always in a squirm, like the squirrels,
I’d try too hard to read the tree’s expressions in the stream,
rivulets of its leafy ardor, light streaming
between my own branches.  Though not wanting to,
I’d think about how things were going with sports
or with the girls, my flesh buzzing their debut curves,
and how shamefully my seed had convulsed
to set me free.  In a wind loosely sung, the tree suggesting
into the shade that it might find reasons to stew as well,
since Christ was nailed to a tree, and Judas hung from one.

But the leaves suggested in their loll as they tinkered with the wind
that I should live in grace and look for good,
though, like the oak itself, I was divided, as St. Paul said about
his own life: the good he should do he often failed to do, 
and the bad he did not wish to do is what he did.
Then in the space framed between branches, I would find refuge,
and though a bramble was maybe sleeping in my socks,
I’d consider another seed and how it might make me
brother to a tree, feel the bounce in its bough, its limbs,
instead of this trying always to nail something to the wind.

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