Fountain of Youth
The cool moist of the earth upon my back,
the smell of fresh-cut clover, and the way
the cottonwood-twig tracery seems to crack
the sky into sapphire fragments join to say,
“Come back to another lawn, another day,
another cottonwood tracery’s tangled track!”
I’d love to heed their call,
but childhood’s mysteries are sealed forever:
Spring turns to Summer, Summer turns to Fall,
and time sweeps onward like a rushing river
whose droplets’ gleaming is ephemeral.
I remember thinking that old tree had fingers
stretching out for a thousand points at once
but never reaching. Still the feeling lingers:
the spring breeze summons and the tree responds,
arching her arms above her gnarled bonds
of root. Wind’s hands are free, but she can’t bring hers
to clasp her coy dance master;
so tall, so strong, so many-armed, but she
stays planted while the feeblest prance right past her.
Does she perceive it as a mockery
and writhe in vain her myriad fingers faster?
It’s strange I thought of trees as fingered men
before that quandary I understood;
my fingers are a manageable ten,
but never managed any lasting good.
For a brief day, in youth, I thought they could,
but my simplicity was shattered when
I reached out for the skies
only to make my sapphire heavens break
in shards of fierce regrets, remorse, failed tries.
My feet were planted in the human ache
while fruitless fingers sought a soaring prize.
Some say lost childhood never can be found,
and I almost believe it, lying here:
those twigs are changed, that sky, this dewy ground;
the vanished visions will not reappear.
Almost! but faith’s a child who draws near
to a tree where Life’s own bread and wine abound.
I’m a child again each week,
when I celebrate our holy mystery,
and feed upon our Lord, and hear him speak,
and see the thousand limbs of his good tree,
grown old and strong by being young and weak.