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Age Marks
Richard Schiffman  (bio)

Read the palimpsest of the bark
as you would a poem, not for sense alone,
but for all the layers, hues and textures,
shapes and tones. Or see in it a map
intended less for guiding than for getting lost
in a landscape of little flaking canyons,
plains, plateaus etched by wind and ice and rain.
Or watch it shedding like a snake’s skin
in lichened, jigsaw patches. Or view it
as a Jackson Pollack of the bark,
whose archipelagos of resin clots,
and cleavage swaths and arcs are strokes
of time’s relentless, unrelenting genius.
Or see it as a simulacrum for self, which speaks
of how—when clawed at, stretched and torn
for untold years of seasons—even the plainest,
stooped, most nondescript of trees
begins to glow from within.

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