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The Tree at the Edge of the World

A poem by Paul Hooker.

Photo by Sonaal Bangera on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Hooker.

A juniper tree grows at the edge of the world.
Bony-fingered roots claw at the face
of limestone, white-knuckled with the pain;
tenacious, they clutch the fragile hope
of strength to grip the ledge in howling wind,
of one more day to gaze into the void.

Gnarled and twisted limbs lean toward the void,
silent hands outstretched reach to the world.
What the tree gives up to scouring wind
it keeps in tortured lines etched on its face.
This stony perch the last outpost of hope,
last station in the dolorous path of pain.

What hand would plant you here to bear such pain,
such silent, lonely vigil in the void?
What mind create you testament to hope,
a stele at the frontier of the world?
What heart inscribe its suffering on your face?
What voice cry Eli, Eli to the wind?

No answer. The eternal moaning wind
soon or late will bring an end to pain,
will pry your grip from off the stony face
of life and send you spinning in the void.
Nothing so strong lives in this windswept world
As wind that wearies of the hope of hope.

And yet. You have been centuries of hope.
Half a thousand years lived in this wind
have shown you stubborn to the world,
inured to hardship, resilient in pain,
rooted in the rock before the void,
the suffering of joy writ on your face.

I have not the courage of that face
nor have I the reservoir of hope
to brave the emptiness, the void,
and cling to rocky ledges in the wind.
What I offer is my share of pain
To mingle with your joy before the world.

So shall we stand at edge of void to face
The world—the sun, the rocks—and dare to hope?
Who knows? The wind may yet bring joy in pain.