“The Artist Observes a Dead Tree” by R. Nikolas Macioci

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2021 Best of the Net Nominee

Five separate offshoots of one tree trunk twist
into each other.
It looks as if a giant has braided
the limbs together into one gnarled distortion.
Nothing is more naked than barren limbs
when everything understood about a tree is dead.
What illness killed the annual rings, or was it
stone cold nothing of old age that stripped it bare?
There will be no more listening to language
of restless leaves. Maybe somewhere its heart
still struggles. As the book says, everything
has a psyche.

Someday someone will paint, sculpt, or photograph it
because it is misshapen, malformed, and gnarled.
Some people hunger for the ugly, enjoy breathing
dark thoughts and even adore the deterioration of stars.

This tree is nothing now but a rupture in the earth
from which birds still speak echoes. This tree
represents impeccable death, wrapped in the question
of what it is still doing here? Someday an artist,
swayed by appreciation, sympathy, or regret, will paint
this tree that has poked a hole in heaven from which
a surprise of butterflies will pour out of the opening.

R. Nikolas Macioci earned a PhD from The Ohio State University. OCTELA, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English, named Nik Macioci the best secondary English teacher in the state of Ohio. Nik is the author of two chapbooks as well as eight books: More than two hundred of his poems have been published here and abroad, including in The Society of Classical Poets Journal, Chiron, The Comstock Review, Concho River Review, and Blue Unicorn

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