- POETRY -

A HISTORY OF TREES

Todd Osborne

ISSUE THIRTEEN | FALL 2019

In elementary school, I had to conduct

            a Leaf Project. I visited Grandma,

 

            who helped me identify the leaves

in her yard. She told me about them 

 

and also about what happened in those 

            trees at night: men gathered and burnt

 

            God, wore white masks. They’re bad men.

This was Tennessee in the 90s.

 

It is easy to believe the history books

            are already written,

 

            that they all end in 1968, with tragedy that is

also, somehow, victorious. I can’t make 

 

that story make sense. I can’t square the Nashville 

            of my childhood with the one that has shows 

 

            named after it. In no way do I consider

anything resolved. The Confederate flags 

 

in my high school parking lot are a scourge

            I didn’t confront. I can’t tell you anything about 

 

            leaves or trees or why anyone decides 

what to do. Sometimes I still pray. But mostly 

 

I hope that when I stoop to pick up a leaf, I will stand 

            to find the forest

                                        gone.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Todd Osborne currently lives and works in Mississippi. His poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming at Tar River Poetry, The Missouri Review, Redactions, Gravel, and elsewhere.

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