The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.
Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,
beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,
it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.
Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?
From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.
In my bed, haunted.
I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.
Michael Mark is the author of two books of fiction, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has appeared and is scheduled to appear in The New York Times, UPAYA, Awakening Consciousness Magazine, Sleet, Forge, as well as other nice places. His greatest inspiration is his wife and then the rest of the world.