(A Rannaigheacht Ghairid)
Grips the ridge of rocky spine.
Roots that probe the limestone crust
Brace against each gust, entwine
Earth and sky
With a long-forgotten sigh
Sealed within a pyramid
Where the hidden pharaohs lie.
Ancient one of age unknown
Marks the centuries with rings,
Cradles saplings in a cone.
Twist in arid winds that flay
Battered bark too dry to bleed—
Broken branches plead and pray.
Teeth and tine
Honed by hunger dare not dine.
Curses cut down men of clay
Who would slay the sacred pine.
~Inyo National Forest, California
Bristlecone pines are among the longest-lived trees on earth. Methuselah, a bristlecone in the White Mountains of California, is more than 4700 years old.
In 1964 Donald Currey chopped down a bristlecone pine on Wheeler Peak, Nevada, that was found to be approximately 4900 years old. He and several others who were involved in the removal and study of this ancient tree known as Prometheus died prematurely. Legend now holds that those who touch the wood of a felled bristlecone pine will be cursed.
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a poet and writer who taught in community colleges for more than a decade. Her tanka and bardic verse in the Celtic style have been published extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America. She is the author of “With No Bridle for the Breeze: Ungrounded Verse” (Shanti Arts Publishing) and “The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse” (Kelsay Books). Updates are available on her website: www.authorsden.com/elizabethspragins.