Jane Hulstrunk and Amy L. Alley

Jane Hulstrunk
Response

Birches
By Amy L. Alley

Inspiration Piece

What failed you?

What about this life

Does not match the brochure that you looked through

In your mind

When you were about twelve years old, maybe

And lie on your back, eyes on clouds or stars or maybe even closed

And planned through daydreams how it all would be?

In a white forest of birches

I grabbed onto a branch

Pulling down slowly

Startled just a little

When the highest leaf

Kissed the dusty earth with mild surprise.

And the leaf, like myself

Asked only one question

‘How did I get here?’

Life is full of surprises.

I never knew a birch

Or any other tree, for that matter

Could be so easily subdued

That I alone could generate enough force

To make that solid trunk bend

And yield

Until it’s shaped was completely changed.

I never knew that I could be subdued

So much

As to be willing to bend

And yield

And change my shape.

This does not match the woman I once saw

In the brochure of the imagined life

Generated by my twelve year old mind.

I think I was a little stronger in that picture.

So the white line from earth to sky

Of one particular birch

Now leans a little further to the right

Than it did before. I changed its course

Perhaps for good. Well, it happens.

But still it stands, all the same

Only different now.

Life is full of surprises.

And what is failure, really

But some great surprise.

Some sudden form of change

In our predictions.

Do we not still grow?

I wonder

Does that top leaf, swaying in the breeze

Still long to touch the clouds

As it did for years

Before I came along and changed it’s shape.

Or does it now crave

That small patch of earth it touched so briefly

Does that seem more heaven-like, somehow

Than the sky above?

I lie on my back and count the clouds that pass overhead

I close my eyes and count one crooked birch

Among a forest of straight white lines.

And I wonder what is left

To be counted.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2010 at 6:08 pm | #

    Spectacular pairing of words and image and a metaphor for the ages!

  2. Gracie Burns
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm | #

    Wistful and so very beautiful!

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