I Dream of Empathy

“At daylight the miserable man was carried to an oak...,” from the series Searching for California Hang Trees
—Ken Gonzales-Day, 2007

I dream of empathy,
but I wake up
to a picture
of a hang tree.

Years later in California
the tree still stands
with its silver-white bark,
wise beard of moss,
and branches flung
against a winter sky.

The postcard on the wall
reminds me
of my days in Oregon,
ticking off the madrone,
the chinkapin,
even the sequoia in a yard,
all on my list
of everything not seen
in the eastern cities’
green and brown
black and white mosaic. 

Like the tree in the picture,
I didn’t think.

I am thinking now.

Marianne Szlyk is Professor of English at Montgomery College, an associate editor for Potomac Review, and editor of The Song Is... Her poems have appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine, Pyrokinection, and elsewhere. She encourages you to submit a poem to The Song Is...’s fall contests: http://thesongis.blogspot.com/2014/08/between-summer-and-fall.html.