this is tree pneumatika

Inspired by a conversation about carpentry and a sermon I heard at church about resurrection, I wrote this poem on the BART, on the way to work last Monday 12/9. I typed it up at work at lunchtime. I haven't written poetry in a long time, but this one felt natural and easy, like a wind that gently blew out of my body and into words.

pneuma is an ancient Greek word for breath, a person’s vital, spirit, soul, and psyche. 
pneuma is “air in motion, breath, and wind.”

pneumatika is the expression of the Spirit, the Spirit that breathes life.

t r e e   p n e u m a t i k a

You could say a tree has one thousand lives,
or one thousand years before it dies,
or one thousand ways to be made into something new.
Maybe it has just one: one soul,
one thought of where it will go,
one prayer spanning endless time,
one perfect breath beginning where it will end,
dwelling in a body that cannot contain itself,
strength not in how well it stands
or how wide it grows,
but in how it resurrects new bodies, in new places,
in wisdom, here on earth, and in the sky.
Here is the seed that flew out from under its own,
sprinkled like ashes in this cremation grove.
How did it arrive
and where did it come from?
The fluke of fallen fruit, the whim of whispering winds.
It makes a bed of the earth,
and in the secret of time and grace,
awakens from the ground, inspired divinity.
How it grows upward, not forward,
looks, moves towards heaven.
It is the closest thing to a celestial body here on earth:
its remembering roots say ‘I am here on earth.’
When one day it falls,
there is no mourning.
Only a silence where it once stood.
Its sinews soften, sallow, sunken in,
every posture a stillness.
One day it is made into something new:
its wrinkles a maker’s mark,
in our hands, a remnant of glory,
no longer fallen, but an orphan we steward,
a breath we once breathed in, we now breathe into,
came from the ground, grew, rose, and died.
Now risen again.
Age no more; grief, a witness; joy it quietly bears.
Neither slumber nor nostalgia changes course.
Here a table, there a chair.
Here we feast upon its naked core.
Once a seed, now a feat.
Here we coax music out of its heart.

The silent timbre of its divined death
stood ringing humbly in a holy breath.

NJS 12.09.13


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