Cupresses macrocarpa

By | 1 May 2021

My cousins & I made a new home for the farm dog
between two grey toes of one of the Cypresses.
If you know them, they are inauspicious:
they have done their job as uncomplaining windbreaks
for decades, even approaching centuries
in the case of the big colonial cattle holdings.
They are indentured to the full-scale mollification
of the Southern ocean on the basalt plains.
In their native Monterey, they tend the other way,
risking life and limb for a random cliff
on the Pacific coast. For wont of an ocean vista
on retirement, they exist in a state of relict parlousness.
As working trees out near the farm’s boundaries,
conversely, they get few visitors: a lone cow,
lost on a very hot day; a cast-iron bath with brass feet
always too confused to be a water trough.
A full stand of Cypresses makes its own
acid rain of mulch; an understorey of prone brown
needles, like the landscape after Mt St. Helen’s,
or large-scale cropping, or the Tunguska Event.
We had to dig through broad deposits of that stuff
first, and we had no need of implements,
small hands being enough to rub away the resin
and the rain, and its weak attempt at sediment.
After all pawing out a kind of triangle barrow
in the actual soil, I think we commented how
dark it was down there: true dark, like
an isolation cell, or your first harrowing go
at blind man’s bluff. When they say Cypresses
are nice, and evergreen, this is a massive misnomer:
in domesticated form, their foliage only exists
to shake down the sun if it tries to evade
a real no-man’s-land of overlain boughs.
We rested the straightest sticks we could find
to make a roof for the tomb, then, in semi-
resignation already, floated funeral roses
of paddock grass on top: a chance attempt
at warming thatch. The poor dog rejected the whole
proposition outright, tumbling most of the roof
structure down upon her frantic back
during a scurried, instantaneous scramble out.
Here was the shortest-lived of many efforts
to make something habitable out of monument.
It was a huge, overwashing relief for us,
walking out again from under the Cypresses’ function:
its powerful message to the barbarian enemies
of mixed-use farmland, of animal husbandry in general.
Instead, back to open plains: a freezing, uproarious wind,
and an almost oneiric morning sun, rebuffed,
but half-heartedly, by sets of pillowy palms.

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