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Krummholz

 

Hunched like an anchorite behind its boulder,

a treeline pine weathers the winter storms.

Its knotty branches shrink as nights turn colder.

Caught in its tufts, a fluted snowdrift forms.

 

When summer bares the mossy flanks of bosses

and lakes of lupine bloom on alpine meads,

the stunted pine regrows its winter losses,

cracking rocks to meet its meager needs.

 

Under its boughs the mantled squirrels nibble

on tender forage plucked from fields of sedge.

Below its roots the braids of snowmelt dribble

in purling pools from ledge to jointed ledge.

 

Off-trail two hikers hunker in its cranny

for shelter from the wind-bedeviled sky.

At dusk the twisted krummholz looks uncanny,

its limbs outstretched as though to prophesy.

 

Driving tent-stakes deep in prickly humus,

we pitch our camp and gather sticks to burn.

The resin-scented plumes of smoke perfume us

while overhead the Bear and Draco turn.

 

As embers fade, our tangled limbs keep burning,

a blaze no dozing squirrels scent or see

though tufted ears might hear us turning, turning.

O!  Crooked love beneath the crooked tree.

 

Alan Sullivan

 

 

Notes for students:

krummholz = the title means "crooked wood," a term for

   stunted trees found near timberline in alpine regions
anchorite = a religious recluse
Bear, Draco = celestial constellations

 

First printed in Chronicles.

Reprinted by permission of the author.


[artist?]


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