My father….he loved trees



My father, he loved trees

but I’m not sure he loved me quite as much

I know he loved the trees cuz twenty-something sweaty sun-baked holes got dug

a double shovel handle, hungry razor jaw,

hinged post-hole digger slammed

again again again

he pulled the earth and shook the sods

as if extracting rattler fangs

he pounded on

down down

the iron mouthbit ringing out and splitting rocks

deep deeper in the heart of Chiggerville

until the acre lot out front became a bumpy scarred up place

full of tree holes for twenty- something root balls

then while he cut and pulled the twine and burlap

he sent me off  and running to turn the tough red faucet

my slippery little hands just could not grip

and so I swung and kicked my whole child self

I hung in hopes I’d budge it

long last…..I did

like magic

It hissed and sighed the breath of life

it made the heavy green snake jump beneath bare feet

it came to life

a hundred feet of twitching, pulsing, jerking, muscle

water works

Again again, my father quenched their thirst

and so, I know he loved his trees

besides, I hauled a hundred times five-gallon buckets with him

his hands were strong and calloused

the bucket handles cut my hands to blisters

And all the time, there in the shade, my brother chopped the bamboo

behind the Air Force barack, make-shift house

he worked for pennies

for nothing…..

He couldn’t stop the rooted beasts from growing

along the flood plane, the bamboo grew an inch or two each day

nothing could stop it, not even ten times ten machettes splaying

He could have worked all day and night and never gained the upper hand

I never understood this rite of boyhood or preferential treatment

and all the while the bamboo grew

and all the while my father hoped his trees would too

I think the bamboo knew …the work of growing…better than most

It was something magic

requiring patience

demanding faith

hope,  vigilance

I think my father wished this magic bamboo spell upon his trees

and prayed they would take root and grow as fast

my father loved his trees this much and more

more than the bamboo in the backyard, more than the sun

he watched them every one just like a sentinel

within the moonlight

beneath the stars

beyond the fireflies and cricket chorus

he heard the dance of armadillos

the shift and shuffle of their midnight rounds

the claw and tear and gnaw of tender shoots and roots

This made him crazy

one night I saw my father leave with haste

with gritting teeth, chest pounding

he set an angry jaw and slammed the screen door shut

then left a trail of choice words through the night air

I listened through the heat but could not see or hear much

until the painful screams began to work their terror on me

a shadow of a man with claw in hand

a bloody, muscly ball of armor jumping, squeeling

a scalloped, hairy rodent trying to flee

no use.

In time the bludgeoning hammer stopped

the air was thick and still and silent and dad returned without a word

his pants were torn and garment top was bloody

His face was red with pride

and he was smiling through the blood and dirt and sweat

He loved his trees… no doubt about it…he proved it

but I’m not sure he loved me quite as much.

A decade passed.

I went to college,

partly by luck on scholarship and paid the rest

I bought a junk heap car and got my license on my own

some Saturdays I drove the fifteen miles home when not at work

he’d be there in the yard with hose in hand

tending the trees

admiring their leaves

glowering over a first pear or peach, boasting a nut yield

cracking small pecan shells

even if it was only a dozen cracks a year

I never seemed to please him in this way

Sometimes I wonder what our life would be….. if he,

if we…. had stayed on there deep in the heart of Texas

awhile on Weil, on that land and in the Ping Pong House

another wet season on Wetz; in that strange house on stilts

if dad hadn’t had the heart attack

or retired early,  or moved out West to rest.

He would have seen those trees grow to maturity

in all their fruit and beauty

I know

They grew up….I saw them

three decades later on an autumn holiday

We, the trees and I, we had our own reunion

They were magnificent

I wonder what dad would have said, if he were living and thriving then and now

just like his trees

perhaps he’d hear them speak the Wisdom he was seeking

when he loved them

Somehow, somewhere…

I think he’s growing trees again and wishing he had me to help him



























About hrobertson2013

“Each man ( and mermaid) will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land”. Isa 32:2 NIV Warning: The author of this blog is not an ordinary individual. Even Mermaids need a rest from all that's real and grown up. Welcome to the wonder of blog. Come be audience to all that's wet and wild in her stories, poems and thoughts. Instructor by day, super hero by night, and mystical mermaid by summer. Whenever she has the fortune of diving into a pond, reservoir, or mountain waterfall, you'll find her there swimming, and singing songs of life.
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2 Responses to My father….he loved trees

  1. Juan Rodriguez says:

    One of your best poems. Made me think of a deep sadness I too have felt.

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