Literary Hook: ‘That Old Oak Tree and Me’ a provocative poem

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

Here is a provocative poem by J. Glenn Evans that deals with diversity. J. Glenn often writes about the plight of native people and prejudice. Enjoy and ponder.

That Old Oak Tree and Me

Hot day on the way to Grandpa’s

I lay down in the forest under an old oak tree

Whose girth quadrupled mine

My head rested upon its root

No sunlight pierced its green leaves

I had walked from town and its shade felt good

I hear a slight breeze through the leaves

I shut my eyes and listened

As the tree exchanged its thoughts with me

Asked “How are things in town?”

“Chaotic,” I said, “and why I love to walk through the forest”

“What do you think of my problems?”

“I have no idea,” I said to this tree many times my age

“They once hanged a black man from one of my arms”

“What did you do about it?”

“Are you being a smartmouth to your elder?”

“No, sir, but what could you do?”

“I was a witness, and I told him I was sorry

He looked at me with sad eyes

He once sought shelter under me in a rainstorm

Later, he had a picnic under my shade with his girlfriend

She was white and they killed him for it

She came back here, hugged me and cried”

“What else do you remember, old friend?”

“Many years earlier, a group of Indians

Gathered here and told stories around a campfire

They shared their fears with me

They had visions that whites were coming

To slay them and take their land”

“What happened?”

“I saw them slain right here under me”

I felt a little wacky lying here with my head on his root

And carrying on a conversation with this old Oak Tree

I got up to go and heard him say

“Before you leave, friend, would you rub that orange paint off my other side?”

“Sure, but why?”

“It means they are coming to get me”

It would not rub off

But on my way back from Grandpa’s

I painted a charcoal over the orange

Every time I pass through the forest

On my way to Grandpa’s farm

I stop and rest in the shade of that old oak tree

I am spending time with an old friend.

—J. Glenn Evans

J. Glenn Evans is author of Broker Jim, Part Cherokee, he spent his early youth on a small farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl days of the Great Depression, picking cotton, chopping corn, shaking peanuts and seeking shelter from the dust. An Eagle Scout with three palms by age 13-1/2, he wanted to become a writer until side-tracked for 20 years by the advice of a wealthy uncle to “go where the money is.” He pursued the career of stockbroker and investment banker, and became owner and president of a securities firm with three offices and 40 brokers. His earlier jobs included paperboy, printer’s devil and operator of hand presses in print shops, dishwasher in a café, summer work in a Prineville, Ore., lumber mill. He operated a small chain of parking lots in Oklahoma City and later an exploration mining company. He co-produced a movie, Christmas Mountain—The Story of a Cowboy Angel, starring Slim Pickens and Mark Miller.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet.

From the May 25-31, 2011 issue

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