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Oak Wilt
Michael Lind


To be among the others, yet apart,
to be an element and still a whole,
to synchronize with other hearts a heart
pulsing for one alone—this is the goal

of animals like us. Our common life
is made from unities that link like chain
or like the live-oaks, knotted in slow strife,
that blackly web a yellow Texan plain.

Rising from roots that blend, a live-oak motte
is both a forest and a single tree.
Its wonders are the kind that can be wrought
only by an entire community:

cathedral panes of green, framed by the boughs
that buttress vaults where birds and squirrels nest,
the wicker-work arcades where deer can browse
in safety and where butterflies can rest.

Contagion kills commingled oaks at once.
From root to threaded root the wilt is spread
like public myth or tribal arrogance
until the dead prop up the standing dead.

Better to tempt the lightning in a field,
better to take a chance of being blown
to splinters without neighbors as a shield.
Though branches meet, let roots remain alone.


Cimarron Review
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