I encounter the angriest tree I have ever seen,
all chapped bark and rigid bone,
bloomless, thorns hugging the trunk
like a declaration of war.

Spiked with railroad ties
sure to blossom into bayonets,
SCUD missiles, rockets, Supreme Court
decisions, barbed wire nooses,
Molotov cocktails, fields on fire.

I take a drink from my water bottle
then pour a little at the tree’s base.
A thorn catches my finger,
stings like hell, draws blood.

I turn the bottle again, pour
a little more into the chalky earth
at its roots, suck the pain from my finger.
That is how the conversation starts.