Family Tree

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Where the shore gave way to mud,
he asked if I could name the tree across
the small pond. I told him to hunt for signs,
leaves abandoned among its base.

I stared at the world inverted
in still water, the tree hanging
by the red hint of evening, branches
rooted in their own winter sky.

Trees were named
before our knowing.

I saw my adopted son surface, upended
on the other side, held in that cold
reflection. He raised the remains of
a pin oak, and I named the leaf aloud.

“Who gave me my name?” he replied.
Like the smoothing of a memory turned
over and over, his question skimmed water,
broke the surface in an echo of rings.

Trees were named
before our knowing.

I returned a flat answer, and his shadow
converged into the rippling thumbprint
of the fallen oak—tree rings shaking,
mirror of maternal branches bare.

If this pond were blood and thick enough
to walk upon, would she cross it? Can I
patch this wound of water
with a stitch of stone?

Seth Grindstaff’s poetry is published in journals such as The Baltimore Review and Blue Earth Review, and his collection Keeping Fireflies was selected for Ghost City Press’ 2021 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series. He teaches in Northeast Tennessee where he lives with his sun-loving wife and four children.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN