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The Killing of a Tree
This time he was not there –
the old tree that always stood at attention,
like a guard at the door to my house.

His worn leathery trunk
weather-beaten life
wrinkled rough upright shabby,
withered branch like a rifle,
turban of leafy flowers,
rugged boots on feet,
creaking, but full of vigorous courage

                          In sun in rain
                          in rain in cold
                          untiringly alert
                          in khaki fatigues

He’d accost from afar, “Who goes there?”
“A friend,” I’d answer    
                          and sit down for a moment
                          under his benign shade.

In fact, there always lurked in our ways
the mortal fear of some common foe –
                           the house had to be saved from thieves
                           the city from plunderers
                           the nation from its enemies

                           had to be saved –
                                      river from becoming drain
                                      air from becoming smoke
                                      food from becoming poison

                                      jungles from becoming deserts
                                      humans from becoming jungles.