What One Does Not See

By Anne-Marie Oomen

Inspired first by the raw photo, and then revised after seeing Linda Dewey’s beautiful painting of the photo, “On the Precipice” 

One does not at first see the roots

reaching into air and toward the river,

tentacled fingers of maple undergrowth,

exposed as muscle without its skin.

One does not at first see the empty spaces 

beneath the trunk, cave-ness revealed,

opening with uncharacteristic light, 

the fibrous mass shaken out, rinsed.

What one sees are the pastel children 

on the edge of a bluff that river carved

to make the tree precarious, now barely 

balanced there.  The children are climbing,

they are picking up and putting down

small stones; they are looking at the earth

without yet knowing what it means to stand

on the cusp. They do not see their future

eroded, but rather here, full of sun, they play,

You take that stone, and I’ll take this one, 

and here, grab that loosened root, and pull up

and stand here, and jump, jump to the river.

One does not see high water, eroded sand 

cascade from naked roots, one does not see 

the great tree tremble. Children do what children do: 

gather stones, climb, leap toward tomorrow.