12:1: “The High Tree on the Hill”, by David Kopaska-merkel

12:1: “The High Tree on the Hill”, by David Kopaska-merkel

He’s parked under the big oak tree
on the hill above the road
gives him a great view across the valley and away
I don’t know how he got there
I hope he has good brakes on his chair
cos that would be a bumpy ride
with a nasty spill at the end

I don’t see a car and I really start to wonder
I park at the bend and hike up the hill
But when I reach the tree
I find no one there, no tire tracks,
no crumpled beer can or cigarette butt,
no flattened blades of grass
I know about these things
it’s in the nature of my work

But I don’t know visions
still less visions of hobbled old men
enjoying the view
I don’t know faith either
but some people say it can find you
whether you seek it or no
so was this a vision of my future
a waking dream behind the wheel
or a burning bush?

Back at the car I glance again
up at the tree; darned if the old man
in the wheelchair isn’t there again!
It’s the same tree, seen from here or there
this time up the hill I run
this time the tree, again, is solitary
and I find only my own footprints

Returning to the car, again
I keep my eye up there
and risk my neck, but between one blink
and the next he’s gone and then he’s there
what do I have to do to reach the tree
under which the old man sits?

I drive on and ponder while traveling
up and over the mountain, all the ways
I could proceed:
     do nothing
telephoto lens
approach from the other side
charter a plane
wait at the bottom for him to descend
But I think I’ll keep the mystery
and contrive to come this way again:
that tree bears watching.


David Kopaska-Merkel describes rocks (and the holes in them) for the State of Alabama. He lives with an artist in an urban farmhouse. Kopaska-Merkel has published 1200+ poems, short stories, reviews, and essays since 1972. He won the Rhysling award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. His latest book is The Tin Men, a poetry chapbook co-written by Kendall Evans & published by Sams Dot. Kopaska-Merkel has edited and published Dreams & Nightmares magazine since 1986. DN website. Blog at dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com. @DavidKM on twitter. He says:

This poem refers to my disability (spinal-cord injury; confined to a wheelchair). Beyond that, I was trying to evoke the kind of mystery that Roger Zelazny was so good at. I think I’m not there yet.

Photograph of a twisted tree on Craigneston hill is by Walter Baxter and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.



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