Ode to a Tree Trunk

Out of pine-crusted hill,
where wild turkeys once
galumphed from tree
branch to tree branch,
you towered over the cabin.
Maybe that’s why they
picked you, the beetles.
With sleek, missile-like bodies,
they drilled inside you,
metastasizing, creeping

inward, secreting sticky
poison that dripped down
your sides, warding off
intruders. They would not
share. They bored through
your bark as slices of sky
shone through your needles.
They fed on your curved lines
and soft middle. They devoured
you, like marrow sucked

from bones. “Any day
now, that tree is going
to fall on the cabin.” My
husband heaved a chainsaw
and tied a rope around
your middle. No matter,
you were already choking.
He yanked the pull cord:
chainsaw teeth buzzed,
smoke curled from

motor, and the alligator
mouth dug into you.
Mother of tree trunks,
I heard the crack as you
plummeted, rolled toward
the cabin, and nearly crushed the porch.                                                                                    The chainsaw whizzed to a stop.                                                                                          Beneath your thirsting roots,                                                                                                      a female beetle

laid hundreds of eggs,
progeny to search
out another host.
Next to the cabin,
my husband prepared
his swing. He would
carve dozens of logs,
fuel for the winter.
Your trunk still stands,
a tombstone that doubles

as a chair. You have always
been useful. Standing atop
your trunk, I can look out
over the valley and search
for red needles exploding
across the forest, a telltale
sign more beetles have
found a home, a telltale
sign that every day
there is less oxygen.

-Jennifer Jordán Schaller

I teach English at a community college in Albuquerque, and I usually write essays, but I also write poetry. I had one poem in Literary Mama, and my essays have been published in Creative Nonfiction; New Mexico English Journal; Sonora Review; Brain, Child; Ascent; and I had a radio story on This American Life.

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