I come to talk with the Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva)

I come to talk with the Bristlecone Pines

I have questions to ask
about belief, longevity,
passage. I find myself
walking among ancient trees,
over 3000 years old,
straggling foxtail branches,
shouldered by naked trunks,
stunted, gnarled, twisted,
bare rufous wood.

The sparse forest
crosses mountain side,
etches treeline,
jagged quartzite rock,
deep azure sky,
resilience beyond my miles. 

I sit on a boulder,
feel the same wind the pines know.
I can’t stay long at 10,000 feet,
bite of the ripping wind,
first flurries of autumn.

I voice my questions to the pines.
We talk until dusk,
three ravens depart over the far ridge,
waxing half-moon rising in the east.
An elder whispers in the wind:
Go slow.
Feel the strength of your roots.

I take a long, deep breath,
take in the thin air, breathe again,
feel the rhythm of my heart,
start the trek down the mountain,
one foot,
then the next.


Francis Opila has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of his adult life; he currently resides in Portland, OR.  His work, recreation, and spirit have taken him out into the woods, wetlands, mountains, and rivers. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Soul-Lit, Windfall, Parks & Points & Poetry 2018, The Avocet, and Clackamas Literary Review. He enjoys performing poetry, combining recitation and playing Native American flute.

Banner image courtesy the poet.