When I cut the grass in tidy rows,
concentric squares and zigzags of green,
I step in and out of a hollow place
where something big once grew—
a maple maybe, or an elm.

The molecules are different in the air
above the hollow —looser, leaving room
for the tree that isn’t there,
and I step through like a spirit,
like I’m passing over a grave.

The ghost tree’s roots have long since
loosened their grip on the earth,
relaxing into soft arteries stretching
through soil that sighs and settles
a bit deeper each season.

Once there might have been
a fire pit hollowed here,
hushed figures huddled round
and smoke rising into the canopy,
a stream flowing where the road is now,
the sounds of crickets and cicadas
not so different from today;
a single arrowhead lost in tall grass.

Deeper yet, a mammoth may have
left a footprint pressed in mud,
where cold grey rain collects
and reflects a stormy sky,
and tiny birds splash and drink.

Oceans and ice beneath my feet.
The weak and the weary lie down to rest,
and don’t get up again.
Now sleeping bones in shrouds of stone
are lulled by the far off, far away hum
of my fossil-fueled mower,
and ancient smoky atoms
stick to my sweaty skin.

It seems the earth grows larger,
a new ring added each year,
a planetary snowball rolling downhill,
and the past is wrapped in cotton
like a fragile vase in storage.

Why don’t the years lift off in layers
drifting into space? Archaeologists
would trade their trowels for telescopes
and lift their faces to read history
in the sky.

I never stood in the shade of the tree,
or leaned against its trunk,
but I caretake this piece of green,
stepping in and out of the hollow
like a cupped palm, offering me today
and all the days beneath.

about the author
Gwen E. Owen is the Content Writer for the Dayton Metro Library, which means she writes content, and she’s quite content doing so. She lives in Kettering.