Rootbound

The tree.

He dug it free.

Carried it from A to B.

But, his work is incomplete.

He still has to plant it.

He moves in slowly.

Nursing his sleeve.

Eyeing the tree nervously.

He grips the wrap.

Tries pulling it back.

Roots have interwoven into the fabric.

He tears.

He rips.

The tree resists.

Its roots hold fiercely onto each fold in the burlap.

They will not let go.

This wrap is the only home the tree has known.

So long alone.

Leaning to the left.

Looking up into the vastness of space.

So deep.

So black.

Speckled with existential lights.

It was left asking.

Is this it?

Am I more than this?

Will she ever visit again?

Her words.

Encouragement.

Missed.

So much.

Too much silence.

It turned within.

Revisiting.

Again and again.

What happened.

Up on the ledge.

Away from the edge.

With doubt as its only companion.

This burlap wrap.

Once lovingly wrapped.

Meant to temporarily protect.

Its fragile beginning from the elements.

Morphed into a suffocating safety blanket it wont let go off.

He gives in.

Relents.

Sits cross-legged.

Elbows on his knees.

He runs his fingers along his root sleeve.

Saps oozes from their severed ends.

He looks to the tree.

Its severed roots do the same.

“I hurt you” he says.

“I want you to know that that’s not me.”

“Its just that you…”

He hangs his head.

“I sound just like them” he says under his breath.

He picks up a stick.

Draws circles in the dirt.

Starts from the right.

Then arcs to the left.

“I too was…”

The tree feels no need to make him say what it already knows.

Its roots unthread.

The wrap goes slack.

He pulls it back.

Bark.

Branches.

Leaves.

Trunk.

External trappings.

Embellishments.

They are the most that we let others see of ourselves.

Not the tree.

It takes a leap.

It lets him see.

The hurt it has endured.

At the meeting of two forces arrayed.

One is the world as it is.

With its history.

And merciless weight.

Bearing down.

Immediately.

Upon the physical frames we find ourselves waking up in.

The other force is us.

That inimitable bit of the universe that sits inside each of us.

It asks to be expressed.

It asks us to build a world in which others can do the same.

It is an epic collision.

That no one escapes.

We sculpt.

Mold.

Nip.

Tuck.

Scar.

Expose.

Hide.

Cover up.

Decorate our physical frames.

To fit into the particular time and place we just happen to populate.

Or, to signal.

However, falsely.

To others.

An alignment of mind and body.

Why not?

No one.

Not even the signaler.

Bears witness to the cost of betraying what’s inside.

He does.

The tree’s roots are twisted.

Tied in knots.

Warring.

Shriveled.

Neither fanned or orderly like he thought.

He suspects something similar sits inside of himself.

He picks up his spade.

“I have to interrupt the dominant pattern” he says.

“Otherwise, your roots will persist in their twisting direction.”

Easier done onto another than oneself.

“This is going to hurt” he warns.

He slices its root ball long ways.

Leaves turn away.

He inserts his fingers into each incision.

Retracts their edges.

Branches bend.

Form wooden curtains.

Try to block him.

He ducks under them.

They need one another.

To cut away their conditioned shapes.

He grabs the tree.

Lifts it up.

Slices short crisscrossing lines into its base

Roots dangle down.

Uneven length.

He runs his fingers through the fringe.

Disentangles them.

Unties knots as he comes upon them.

He gives the tree his undivided attention.

At first he thought he could not do this.

Instead he feels born to do this.

“Almost done” he says.

A leaf touches his cheek.

He shoos it away.

Sets the tree down into the shallow cavity.

Centers it.

Another leaf touches his cheek.

He ignores it.

Stands the tree upright.

Steps back.

Checks his work.

Makes a final adjustment.

The tree takes the next step.

There is no need to ask.

It has been waiting a long time to do this.

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Roots burrow.

Displace dirt.

Seek.

Spread.

Carpet the floor.

Climb the walls.

Circle the moonlit aperture in the vaulted ceiling.

It stretches its limbs.

Strokes his cheek with the tip of a leaf.

“Okay. Okay” he laughingly pleads.

He runs his hand along the trunk of the tree.

“It’s just you and me” he says.

His fingers undulate over a zigzag line.

“You’re a graft” he says.

He is not sure how he knows that.

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