Natural Causes



Tossing bikes to the ground,

we exclaim this new finding:

whorls and curls of bark

strewn in prairie grass

like so much evidence.


Just two young girls, we

can’t identify the species

of the tree above; instead

gingerly collect several scraps.

Our small brown hands

rub each piece like worry

stones as we remark on

the marvel of this tree

both alive and not.


The sun is setting and father

wants us home, I say.

So you and I document

each fragment. (It’s vital,

this preservation, you say.)


Eventually these remnants

will fit neatly into a shadow box,

beside a dead yellow jacket

and some fragrant sage.


But tonight as we wait,

we lay each bit of bark

on clean butcher paper

for proper examination.