by Dennis Camire

These old growth stumps soon become the tombstones of gallant soldiers
As I grasp how they survived the boot camp of being a skinny, green sapling
Endlessly harangued by the drill sergeants of deer antler, boring beetles
And winter voles before serving their country in releasing enough oxygen—
Each day—for four people to practice the democracy of breathing while,
Simultaneously, saving us from the mustard gas of carbon dioxide always
Attacking . . . And as I ponder how each heroic tree died with its roots on
While limbs of rifles fired right into the clear cutter’s tank, I pass fingers over
The erosion’s engravings just as veterans do to lost comrades at The Memorial. 
Here, though, so many more lost, unnamed soldiers only leaving us knowing
They served with the pine, hemlock or oak regiment. Here, too—below the high
Ground of Pike’s ridge—it’s still too easy to imagine their mass extermination
And capture before being shipped to the lumber yard where they were stripped
Of their dignity’s every last woodchip. . . . Still, the ground here feels so hallowed
From them never going AWOL from their 24/7 mission to shelter each refugee

Of snowy owl or Canadian lynx escaping the despot of progress always lusting
For more kingdom. Now, hiking, I pause to salute the purple hearts of scarred bark
Modestly covered with sweaters of moss; later, the perched bald eagle becomes
That Silver Star for working so hard with their acre regiment to keep the always
Agitating erosion from dividing this country. And may our patriotism, one day, be
Gauged by hearing all the signs of PTSD in the old growth’s silence then creating
More Veterans’ Homes of preserves where tree surgeons salve the old wounds
From the shrapnel of lightning endured through their own Hundred Year’s wars.
And may our stories of those warrior sequoias holding their ground to the wildfires’
Charging regiments inspire future generations to serve, summers, in the Forestry
So our nation of voters, one day, whispers, “Thanks for your service” when passing
Any fallen maple or fir; and each child honors these brave trees always standing
At attention to defend, as the Greeks heed, our precious topsoil which, in turn,
Grants us all that freedom and independence and without which there’s literally
No great green country—nothing—north, south, east, west—to God Bless. . . .

Dennis Camire is an adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College and at the University of Maine at Augusta. The former director of Maine Poetry Central, he currently curates the poetry column "Maine Places and People" for The Sun Journal's Sunday Edition. His most recent book is "Combed by Crows" (Deerbrook Editions), and his poems have appeared in The Spoon River Poetry Review, Poetry East, Mid American Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Maine Public Radio, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in an A-frame in West Paris, Maine.