Christ died on an aspen cross, woodmen thought.
Maybe that’s why, on slight provocation,
I quake and all my cordate leaves shiver,
so that I am known as ‘The Trembling Giant,’
aka Populus tremuloides.
Before men walked out of Africa and
when glaciers were scouring the planet,
I, Pando, was like a subterranean god –
not Pluto, but Pando, meaning ‘I spread.’
After flames have incinerated me,
my dormant rhizome will regenerate,
like resurgence of an old religion.
In times of trial, I just go underground;
in ideal circumstances, I can host
bryophytes; nurture lepidoptera.
I have the root of the matter in me,
but I share my vulnerability
with my multiple ramets – all my clones.
I haven’t flowered for ten thousand years,
in spite of a rigorous self-pruning.
See where black scars mutilate my white bark.
Invasive lodge pole pine may steal my light
and pocket gophers gnaw my root system,
but I sprout from this volcanic soil.
What I lack in diversity,
I’ll exchange for durability, for
we suckers just plan to stay together,
even when a highway runs right through us.
Master of the art of adaptation,
I will survive when all else is ashen.