Mark
For me it was the trees
by Michael Mark

The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.

Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
undeniably dead.

Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,

beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,

it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.

Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?

From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.

In my bed, haunted.

I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.

© Michael Mark

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: This is a photo of my wife, Lois, and myself and one of the trees I wrote about on our photo-only safari in South Africa. Lois has a blog and has written about her travels, this trip included, at midlifeattheoasis.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was begun on the flight back home from our trip to Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long-distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.