Almost every year, the cottonwoods shed,
losing their ligature of branch and limb
in the autumnal wind, this anxious wind
which blows steadily toward winter.
Though we can predict it, there is no controlling
this freefall of bough and breaking of trunk,
save, of course, cutting down every cottonwood
to stump, to squat lump along the riverscape.
And so gather this tossing of sticks in the grass,
armloads of what once was architecture—the perch
of the eagles, the feasting table for flickers,
the framework for casing the rising moon.
For all this dissection, it’s no less tree,
more than the sum of its parts. Beyond xylem
and phloem, support and transport, is the light
that it feeds on, the oxygen given, the life
that passes through—like love, perhaps,
that does not ask why, that refuses prediction,
that cannot be broken down. It simply is. And
falls apart. Takes root. Leans toward light. Furnishes.