Is it agony that has bleached them to such beauty? Their stand
is at the edge of our property—white spires like fingers, through which
the deer emerge with all the tentative grace of memory. Your father
loved these trees. When you try to imagine his childhood, it is all old
footage, in a similar scheme: black and white. But he died, and all you know
is that they reminded him of home. As they remind you he is gone
to a country as unimaginable as his life before you were born, before
the woman who would be your mother lived as she does now—lost,
wandering at the edge of her life’s whitened gates.
After a storm, one birch fell in the field, an ivory buttress collapsed across
the pasture. Up close there is pink skin beneath the paper, green lichen
ascending in settlements of scales. In the dark yard it beckons you back
to snow, the static of the past—your father, a boy, speaking in a tongue
you never knew, calling down from the branches. Or the letter you wrote
to a mother you weren’t allowed to miss—black ink scrawled across
the white pulp of the page: I am very lonely without you.