Along the riverside near our compound, where I wash our clothes, there is a solitary oak. It stands alone, proud and resilient. Its trunk is scarred with gouges and carvings and a diseased section near the roots. There, a cavity has opened and in the rot, tiny larvae tranquilly feed in the debris that sloughs from the rotting heart of that majestic tree. A lightning strike had ripped one of the larger limbs away from the massive trunk and it lies partially severed along the riverbank. The limb is still connected, but its boughs lie broken along the ground. The leaves that remain are yellow and unhealthy. Where a grove of trees once lined the riverbank, the land is now barren. War and famine and desperation have cleared the restful shade and the sun now bakes the rocky riverside.
The solitary oak stands
Scarred and broken and cancerous
And in its branches pigeons rest
And in its shade women meet to wash their clothes
And chatter through the afternoon