Trees in Hiding

Mary Pat Mann

A farmhouse not far from here,
built (it must be) a century ago,
is paneled all inside with chestnut,
wall and ceiling, room and hall,
handmade from trees that grew nearby
before the trees all sickened and died.

I touch wood darkly alive, smooth
patina glowing. What is this? I ask, so
my neighbor tells the tale. Other rooms
are painted, papered. I ask, How
could you cover it up? She says,
It’s so dark. It gets to you after a while.

And I suppose it would. But now,
in each room of dusty plaster or
faded sprays of paper lilac, I sense
a deeper presence, as though the trees
have hidden themselves deliberately there.
Perhaps they felt the blight creep near

and thought to come inside to stay,
and so they have. My neighbor could sell
those boards out from under her drywall,
but she won’t. Shrewd, she knows what
chestnut would bring, but I think she likes
them near, armor against whatever comes.

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