Killing the Tree
by Jennifer Ronald

We bludgeoned it. Me and this kid Jeff.
(Our mothers hated each other.) We took
Big rocks and beat the trunk of a young birch

Until we could push it over. It took two days.
The inner flesh splintering, a fresh smell and
The color of smoked salmon. Not like the crumbling

White middles of the ones my father cut down
For our fire. We stood staring along the long spine
Of this birch on the ground. Jeff dropped his stone

And ran, leaving me alone with the tree.
And what was there to do now? There was no
Clean cut to count the rings and no one

To tell. I sat stroking the white peeling skin,
Collecting the branches broken in the fall.
The woods darkened, a cool cloth on my eyes.

I lay down beside it on a bed of leaves and needles
And spread the blanket of gathered branches
Over us. I lay close, so it would take me, too.

Copyright 2022 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.