Atlas Revisited

Robert and Marcy Branski Poetry Award – Poetry

Kallie Crouch

Mancelona High School – Senior

The first time I saw the sun,
I cried—the place my mother stood
moments before
was an empty hole
in the canopy through which it could shine.
Mother’s wail mixed with the purr of saw blades
as they chewed at her trunk
until she toppled. I hear her still
when the wind blows from the east,
where Old Man Willow bends
over the creek to converse
with the frogs and water birds.
I watched the sun float across my mother’s
little slice of the sky
for the next fifty years, straining upwards
to fill the gaping wound she left—
where the sky might cave in
had I not been there to stop it.
I joined the whispered anthem
of my brother-sisters. We cradle the Earth.
We carry the sky.

I cared little for my duty.
My branches poked and prodded at the satin
sheet sky, shredding clouds crafted from cotton
and wool with leafy fingers I once used
to push through the forest floor.
At least here, the sky draped
over my shoulders, it is quiet.
Gone is the incessant scraping of beetles
and worms in the ground and the chirps of
birds and squirrels locked in argument,
replaced by tap of rain on leaves and the soft murmur
of the wind telling its secrets. And here, I can pretend
that I am the sun’s only companion.
She, as perfect as a golden apple
dangling just beyond my reach—soft and unblemished.
My roots sink deeper into the soil,
tasting bitter loam and sweet rot, branches reaching
a few more inches upwards
to brush her lovely face,
if only for an instant.
And I know one taste of that golden apple
would set fire to the entire glen, turning water
to steam and we who cradle the Earth,
we who carry the sky

into torches,
then little more than ash.
And it would be my fault
for taking the sky upon my shoulders,
wrapping the Earth in my roots,
and daring to touch my lips to the sun.