Father-Son Poetry: The Juniper Tree

by Michael Mager

boy, father-son image c 2001-2002 ArtToday

The Juniper Tree

Josh and I were at 9000 feet, though it felt like thirty thousand;
my fleshy stumps lifted and pushed
my two hundred plus pounds up a scree slope
to an impossible cliff of rotten stone and compressed ocean.
We ate sourdough and salami
washed down with beer and water,
while trilobites behind us laid low for a few more eons.

Anger at our fathers held us in embrace,
and we were forced to suckle together
at a single breast overflowing with regret.
We looked out at the crest of the Sierra, two miles away,
our backs against a drama concluded millions of years ago.
We filled the silence with longing for understanding;
words piled on more words piled on even more words,
a layer of thought thousands of feet deep;
the pain at the bottom of it all was pressed into diamonds.

We slid down the hill a long quarter mile into a grove of ancient
junipers, circled and squatting, masticating the soil over the centuries,
gently extruding it as leaves and rough bark;
They stood around the Old One; beyond father or mother,
squatting apart; tall above a fallen altar stone.
accepting the honor from its children,
just as it had honored its parents thousands of years before.
A stone had ripped a patch of skin from my palm
as we had fallen here and the pain and blood
brooded in the midst of layered time.

We sat at the stone altar, covered in sunlight and dust.
I spoke of eons and ages, the Manifest Destiny
of The Living. Death was always converted to Life, I said,
while Joshua contradicted and laughed, not seeing
the Wisdom of Life, torn from the sea millions of years ago.
Generations build on generations, consuming, reproducing, departing.
Utility and Pain are inherent in living,
and only the bones of a chosen few, chosen by fiat, remain.
The rest grow in us all.
I reached into my Darkness and pulled the Diamond of Regret
into the light and presented it to my son.
He looked the other way,
into a day yet to come, if it ever would.
Fathers and Sons, I thought, to consume
and to be consumed.

I left my blood on the bark, probably out of respect,
and the tree marked our passing as less than an
insect on a bee line west.

Copyright © 2000 Michael Mager
All rights reserved.

21 Poems for Fathers