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The Barrens


We were not worthy stewards of our pines;

we never grasped the way they interwove.

Rooted along the island's length like vines,

they twined from sound to sea in one vast grove.


Our neighbors on that subdivided land

slashed their plots and planted hardwood trees

that languished in a bed of brackish sand

and soon succumbed to tentworms or disease.


My parents left a handsome stand uncut

but hacked out all the saplings and the brush.

On stormy nights with cottage windows shut,

we heard old boughs creak in the seawind's rush.


One by one the surviving pines were tried

and the Barrens grew more barren as they died.


Alan Sullivan



First printed in The Formalist.

Reprinted by permission of the author.

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