FOR MY BROTHER RICHARD
The bark of the parchment tree furled
And fell on roots so gnarled
They were dead hands gripping the earth,
Knuckles bared to the rain.
Climbing across to retrieve a fallen piece
Could be slippery, and scary,
But if you were gentle with the discarded skin
You might plot a path to where treasure lay.
Too often what fell was brittle
And would shatter when
Uncurled to read the message there.
Up where the tree’s strong arms arched
Over our roof, the bark flapped loose and fresh
In any sudden breeze- those were the perfect charts
To lead us on.
Ricky could bring them down
In antelope leaps, from dog house
To garage to back porch to roof,
He would quickly be beside them on a limb.
And until he fell to the April mud, broken
Like the stick I could snap in my hands,
I thought I would follow him when I grew.