In appraising a living tree, one must first consider its age. Then:
location, species, condition. If many trees of the same
kind grow in proximity, each loses value because it lacks
a distinctive gleam. Tree appraisal’s much simpler
if the tree is small enough still to be moved, in which case
its worth corresponds to the cost of obtaining, transporting,
and replanting a tree of the same type, girth and condition.
Still, we talk very earnestly about the price of things
that could never be uprooted or sold. We know seasons
are not arbitrary, from the rings and from the way they
remind us what it felt like to be us before. When this country was
becoming one, men wore white wigs, because their age
was a luxury, not a fact to be ashamed of or hide. A tree
in an industrial area is worth more than a tree in the woods.
Tell a redwood how young this country is, and it will have
a silent but looming reply. I like yelling very loud inside my house
and knowing no one can hear me, like when a tree falls
in the forest and somehow no money is lost, or when two
messengers pass on the road to each other’s masters, and say
nothing of the small sealed envelopes they carry near their chests.
Editor's Note: This poem appeared in the July/August 2013 print issue.