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.