by Thomas Davis
The Red Pines
Larry Anderson gathered us.
He went through offices and cubicles,
Telling everyone we were going to have a ceremony
For the red pines to be harvested
So we could continue building the thunderbird shape
That housed the college.
Fifteen people joined the circle Dan Jones had us form.
We stood in mid-morning sunlight
In front of the medicine wheel
Between the Center of Excellence doublewide trailer
And the thunderbird’s north wing
As Dan, dark, genial, pipe carrier,
Asked Larry for the bird basket of fruit.
I will not speak the words Dan spoke.
He accepted, then burned tobacco
In the traditional way.
He asked the pines for forgiveness.
He talked about how we were right
In celebrating trees and mourning the need
That caused us to end such long-lived lives.
He asked the trees to bless the lives of students
That would learn in the new building.
The sun was hot.
Dan said his words, teaching us
The proper attitude toward ourselves,
The tall, slender pines.
Then we each ate a raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, or strawberry
As the birchbark basket went round—
Until one kind of each fruit was left.
The birchbark basket and fruit were placed
Beneath high branches of red pine.
Then we went back inside the college to work.
I went away the next morning to Canada
And a gathering of white teepees
Gleaming in a meadow backgrounded
With dark pines, spruce, and white-trunked aspen.
When I returned the red pine
In the roped off plot behind the college,
Extending out from the thunderbird’s north wing, had been cut.
Even stumps were gone.
I looked at the emptiness and said nothing.