Monterey Cypress Poem

“Commemoration of the Second Oldest Monterey Cypress Tree in California” by Jonathan Sharkey (Port Hueneme 1997)

Who was it that slept
beneath your canopy?
Who first lingered
in your shade?
On which day 
was that first shoot seen?
Which bird was it 
dropped that seed
when passing on the fly?
How many more have there been
that sprouted, grew, and died?
Which children climbed 
in your branches?
Did their children’s 
children too?
How many passing
by the way
Would stop to look at you?
The Spaniard passed this way
— seems only an hour ago —
Horses — then wagons —
driven by.
How many thought to know
your branches 
reaching o’er the road?
Did any pause
on summer days
enjoy your shade, 
then go?
In winter wind
with dripping Mac, 
did the teamster shelter there, 
bang out the rain 
from his storm-soaked hat, 
water streaking off his hair?
Sailors and sinners, 
preachers and saints, 
pass by in this long parade.
A car, a truck, a bicycle –
buildings rise and fall.
Lights come on at twilight, 
go off again at dawn.
The ship that was here yesterday 
is now out to sea and gone.
Passing by — the Chumash lad.
Passing by — the farmer.
Passing by each step, each day, 
in dust and time each step away
from where they lived in their today 
to someplace even farther
on. Yet constant you remain.
How do we measure such a life?
Seedling, tree, and rotten branch?
In our brief passage on this road
what is it we can say 
but, “Yes, I stopped
beneath its shade
and waited for a while,
but I had other things to do
and so went on
as will you too.”
Yet glancing once or twice around
we catch a glimpse 
through clouded eye
of all those walking down this road,
Grandpaof all our fellow passersby.

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