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Out Of Sight, Out Of Land; The Tree That Brings Me Home by Reed Venrick

Out of Sight, Out of Land

Still dawn, heading southeast

Out of Key Largo’s mangroves.

Watch your I-phone’s compass

move between 90 degrees to

120. Watch the low-lying island

Behind shrink into depths that

The Atlantic Ocean now commands.

And when your boat reaches

Some 4 or 5 windy miles out,

The mangroves sink finally below

The horizon line like some figment

Fading of last-night’s dream, where

The coral fossil escapes to the sea,

And islands again become invisible

Reefs and limestone after the wrath

Of a hurricane, when paranoia hooks

Your brain with a painful twist, and

You stare blindly into the wake that

Covers the island where you grew up.

Will it be a water world from now on?

Will you ever stand on dry land again?

Ever see palm and poinciana again?

Will the future be just the heat and salt

On skin and chapped, burnt lips and

Fierce starlight burning your cheeks

And squinting your eyes? You search

The horizon and wonder: what was

Noah thinking that first morning after

The biblical flood rose too high?

Not just the devastation of the world

He witnessed, but trusting the boat

He’d labored long to prepare? While

Holding his breath. Like you, he had

That first morning out. Then the roiling,

Fluctuating horizon looked no different

From the horizontal line you witness

Now. Count your blessings, double check

The list of of food and materials on board.

Remember Noah had it much worse.

His only compass, a sun still hidden

Deep inside the sea, and the horizon

That once he trusted as an eternal

Monument where he could disembark.

The Tree that Brings me Home

This old mahogany tree, rising

Above and canopying over our

Backyard’s bahia grass—spreading

Branches, stretching wide like a live

Oak, but without the Spanish moss.

Though deciduous, it sheds and

Re-robes itself so fast, it appears

To be an evergreen. Granddad

Planted it the day I was born, just

Hours after I was given a name,

Before a summer’s thunderstorm.

Then, no more than a yard tall,

No thicker than a pencil, those,

His words, as I often remember.

Once, they moved it for more sun,

Moved it again for a shed added

On; wanted to move it again

For an expanded Florida room,

But it rained so much that summer

Of ’63, the tree grew too fast, so they

Built a porch around the growing trunk.

Now, branches cantilever over our yard

And the nearby canal, as it reaches

80 feet tall and 60 wide. I nail another

Ladder’s step up on a sturdy limb.

I pull my way up to a high branch

On the furrowed but elegant bark,

And then I pause minutes to meditate

Before I descend back down to rest

In the hammock under the shady

Limbs. Below, the roots hold me

Securely in a place that keeps me

In comfort from the fierce tropical

Sun. I imagine the many rings

Inside the trunk, marking those

Circles of our overlapping lives,

As I share my afternoon and

Consciousness with my birth twin.

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