Can’t you see it son? Oakley,
between the Albion Hills?
Father says it’s how I got my name.
We are going back to my roots.
Father says we are going to read
great-great grandfather’s will.
I don’t know what that means.
Father says it’s a piece of paper
that comes from a tree, like a leaf,
but instead it sprouts from the heart.
A will speaks our desires for the future,
after we are asleep inside a tree trunk.
We will all be laid to rest one day,
father says. Knock on wood.
I knuckle the station wagon dashboard.
Father smiles, No no Oakley, real wood;
not this hollow imitation. Wait
for the solid, red-mahogany door
on the front porch in the heart.
of Oakley. It’s always unlocked
Father says. He loves that house.
His heart is in that farm. Oakley,
if they cut me open they’ll see tree rings
in my heart. Circles both thin and thick
father says. The honey locust was planted
by his father the day my father was born.
It’s crooked–dead leaves. They’ll cut off the limbs
–fire wood, father mumbles. Like the will–ashes.
White vases full of Papa’s remains
contrast the black suits, scarfs, veils.
On the road pass the home, the yellow leaves
twinkled in the autumn sunset. Father cries,
Fly Oakley; like those honey leaves,
high and bright, you hear? Like a spark
Feed your fire on all this dry wood Oakley.
It’s dry, not dead, just dry. The fire transforms it . . .
Father says it’s all eternal elements,
We’re not gone we’re just transformed.
I look out the window. Dad pulls over
then shakes me against my seat belt.
Never forget your roots. Promise
you’ll remember Oakley Oakley!
And I cry . . . and father cries.
With tears we water that dry old tree
as farmers whose hands are uncalloused
but whose hearts are ripe.
Now Oakley Jr., fruit of my loins,
you know the will of my father
A heart from which a leaf sprouts,
an omen that buries my doubts.