Green Ash Tree

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - by A.F. Moritz

A tree never dies ex­cept in our neighbourhood. Green ash, stripped in old age, all branches cleanly lopped by saws: a torso stand­ing in an ul­ti­mate arthri­tis. An am­putee, noth­ing but trunk and two stumps up­raised, the brusquely docked ma­jor limbs. A sling­shot with no strap, no child or war­rior. Some­thing like a gi­ant Y: a sign sprung from change and mur­der, loom­ing at the edge of the fancy lawn of the owner. A let­ter from be­yond the al­pha­bet’s end, that no one can read, glow­ing with a sense of mean­ings, un­see­able in pa­thetic nudity, re­ject­ing our eyes as it waits to be cut down the rest of the way. It makes the mind stand­ing on the buck­led side­walk go to the woods and sit on the log of a long fallen tree, hav­ing climbed to get there across many oth­ers in the green-dark dusk of noon un­der the leaves. How liv­ing the warmly rot­ting logs are in the few slant rays warm with wood dust and midges. Which is more alive here, the liv­ing or dead?—which is more per­fect, ir­reg­u­lar, hu­man, strug­gling, calm? The mind sits on its cho­sen one of these rifted roads that used to over­shadow it, run­ning off to the sky, as the liv­ing ones do now. But these have come back from that di­rec­tion and stretched out on the earth. At last their length can be trav­elled, though destinations and ori­gin are lost now in all the places where they broke off. The mind sits on its long log: it’s a gi­ant by a road­side as­ton­ish­ing a lost prov­ince and yet ab­sorbed in it, pro­por­tion­ate at last. For this coun­try is so wide and lonely that the out­landish here becomes a poor and sim­ple per­son, a tired pil­grim rest­ing in a myth. been gone too long and we hardly rec­og­nize you. Ka titi thought you were kuȼkiyawiy and wanted to shoot you.’” “You did?” asked Un­cle Pat. “It is true,” said Ka titi. “I was younger then and prone to bad judge­ment. “Skin raised his hand and be­gan to speak. ‘It is true, Na­suʔkin. I have been gone for too long. You don’t rec­og­nize me and I hardly rec­og­nize you too. I had to lis­ten to Kupi to tell me who is who.’ “The tribe was sur­prised at this and some rum­bling be­gan. “‘But be­hold,’ said Skin. He rum­maged into his buck­skin bag and pulled out the deli chicken and the beet salad. “‘I have gone a long dis­tance and have come back with food for the tribe. The suyupis over the moun­tain have built a new Over­waitea and they gifted this to us.’ “Na­suʔkin took a look at the food and the eyes of the ʔaqⱡ smaknik̓ and said, ‘Some­times Kupi knows what is best for the tribe. You have done well, Skin. We have enough food to keep us through win­ter.’ “The tribe had a big feast that night and ev­ery­one was tired with red-mouthed snores. Skin knew that the tribe would not trust him any longer, so he left his clothes folded on the bridge to town and flew off into the night. “Years later, David Thomp­son ar­rived and started the mess we are in to­day.” “Hola! That is some story, Ka titi,” said Un­cle Pat. “Is it true?” “Lis­ten for the com­ing of Kupi and they will tell you what is true. They are bet­ter than news­pa­pers and teevee. But don’t talk to them or you will fly off like your Un­cle Skin. “And that is why we Ktu­naxa don’t speak to Kupi at night.” tax niʔ pik̓ak — a long time ago Ka titi — grand­mother suyupi — white peo­ple ka·pi — cof­fee Kupi — owl Ktu­naxa ʔa­mak̓is — Ktu­naxa lands troy se­bas­tian is a Ktu­naxa writer based in Vic­to­ria.

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