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From a distance 

it looked like ordinary 

wood, a snuff-colored twig

one might rake

for burning. Surfaced 

by the bulldozer

from a sarcophagus of clay, it 

could have been the brittle 

finger-bone of a prophet, or a

phalange of an extinct ape

 from another age. Black

 spruce, the geologist says,

buried by the last glacier

 budging across Illinois.

The branch lies cool

against the palm. You count

 the rings in cross-section: 

fourteen. One for each

millennia the tree was a secret

 no one knew to tell. You

 feel a rush of centuries

receding and for a moment

 stand among its antecedents.

The conifer reaches for thin 

blue sky, breathes

air full of promise.

In the silhouette

 you see a tree waiting 

for December.

Image by liiuyyu via Creative CommonsImage cropped.