for evergreen

for evergreen

Daphenie Joseph
Media Staff

my grandfather knows trees

like I know the bark of his calloused hands

their leaves, their roots, their flowers


you know it’s a silverleaf maple

when you can look out the car window

on the seasick scenic route 

and the wind rustling through the leaves

shows you their soft gray underbellies


my grandfather lights bonfires

whittles sassafras branches down

to spear marshmallows upon


you know the sassafras has three kinds of leaves

ovals, mittens, three-lobed

all on the same tree, same branches

and that its bark smells like the A&W

that my sisters and I sip while sitting on the swingset


my grandfather builds chicken wire fences

to keep the deer out of the blueberry bushes

in the field by the orchard


you know the cherries taste best mid-June

in the evening, after a long day of hard work 

satisfying, like realizing one summer

that your scrawny arbor day pine’s branches

now stretch out wider than your wingspan 


my grandfather grows trees

blue spruces lining the driveway

now shedding needles, turning brown


you know there’s some deadly fungus

it’s going to take them all someday

He told me so but I don’t want to believe it

ever since lightning toppled the largest one 

in a dry summer thunderstorm


my grandfather nurtures trees

watering, feeding, pruning, laboring

all so their strong branches may graze the sky 


you know the oldest tree recorded was near 5000

before they felled it in the name of science

and my tree has many years before forever

but I fervently believe it could live until then

off my grandfather’s care and my desperate hopes


but my grandfather knows trees 

when it’s time to let them go

rent a woodchipper, grab the saw


you know to count a tree’s rings

to learn how long it stood

to guess which years had droughts

and to cherish when the sun and rain were friends

a wisdom only gained through death


I know the chipmunks burrow now

deep and warm in the old tree’s mulch

I know mushrooms grow out of barren trunks

and that sometimes fires need to burn

for new seeds to have space to breathe


I know at this moment my tree still stands

and for now I can rest my worries safe 

in my grandfather’s hands

and that it’s okay to mourn the stumps and splinters

for I know grief, like trees, takes time