Living Tree

Doug Ramspeck


He has been working at the ancient stump

with a mattock and a grub hoe and an axe.

When his wife was alive they would sit

on that decaying wood and watch the moon.

It was white as a pale grub above the tupelos.

It waited in the dead sky, otherworldly

as a bleached skull, as pale as salt.

Usually the bullfrogs and chorus frogs

would serenade them from the lake,

but this evening the sweat drips from his back

and the sounds are of split wood and severed

roots. A kind of forgiveness settles

into these bottomlands at twilight: the air cools,

the fog coalesces like a wraith, and the hoot owls

awaken as specters in the woods. In one dream

the stump transforms slowly into loam

and out of it sprouts a living tree, lifting itself

into the sky above the lake, growing tall

and sharp and hooked. Then impales the moon

and holds it dead and bloated in the sky.




Doug Ramspeck’s  collection, Black Tupelo Country, was selected for the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and is published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City). His  chapbook, Where We Come From, is published by March Street Press.  Several hundred of his poems have been accepted by journals that include Prairie Schooner, Epoch, West Branch, Third Coast, Northwest Review, and Hayden’s Ferry.  He  was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for 2009.   Ramspeck directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima.