Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

JoAnn Balingit

The Great Tree

after an etching by Leonard Baskin

The great tree stands in a corner of your youth unhurriedly
gathering rings and massively sidles up close to your birth

while you are not looking. It peers down through your life
as if over a cliff, the great tree, more sheerly connected

to your body than you were much of that time, here beneath it
looking up at the limbs you climbed like years into a being

you loved, your anchor in times of loss and in the
times of plenty because when it dropped leaves, it let you see

how provisional things were. As with fruit and family
squandered, you came to understand life was not so bad nor yet

so good as you might think, when its layers turned dark and blew away. Your life is slower now, you too, almost

quiet sometimes, shedding leaves that whisper where
they lie. Everybody knows a tree they sooner or later

return to, no matter how awful the excuses for wanting to roam
the old streets where the great tree was nanny, the one

Issue 2 | Winter 2011

who may or may not grow old, who blossomed manna
you were happy to risk your limbs for, to plumb the openings

of her trunk, wedge knees to chin in a womb, in a great
tree of longings, of fledglings always about to fall

from the nest of feathers you dream.

Untitled Document