In Passing – by Rob Hardy

When the old bur oak was there, before
the chainsaws came to cut it down, before
the branch that hung above the sidewalk
was trimmed away and out of reach,
I used to stop each time I passed that way
to lay my hand against that branch,
just to feel the roughness of the bark,
just to pause there and be still a while—
and for me this was a kind of prayer,
to be present and to ask for nothing,
to be as a bird, something brief and light.
This evening I knelt and pressed my hand
against the stump and felt the roughness
of the rings. My entire lifetime in less
than the span of my hand. At the center,
a beginning no one living can remember.

Rob Hardy is the author of the collection Domestication (Shipwreckt Books), as well as two poetry chapbooks, Shelter in Place (Finishing Line Press) and The Collecting Jar (winner of the 2005 Grayson Books Poetry Chapbook Competition). From 2016 to 2023, he served as the first Poet Laureate of Northfield, Minnesota.