She takes the tablecloth
from the linen cupboard
by the door
     grabs an edge
     shakes it open
     inhales the crisp fragrance.
White hovers above the table
     for an instant
before settling
so she can
its creases and folds
lay fresh napkins
on its starched surface.

Tonight I dine
at this table
     wine stains
     a bit of sauce
then wipe chocolate
     from the corners
     of my mouth
wad my napkin
discard it
     in a heap
next to the coffee dregs
          in my empty cup.

My baby blanket's blue satin fringe
is a pale remainder of sixty-five years ago.
The royal blue tassel
from high school graduation has grayed.
Marian's white wedding dress
is ivory now, almost tan.

My eyes change, brown/then green/now blue
as they reflect
my wife's hip-swaying walk,
gray hairs in my son's beard,
grandchildren's flushed faces,
friends now gone
who shimmer like a mirage in my mind's eye,

          the red and gold of sunset
          just over the hill.

Kevin put one hand on bare wood,
the other on discolored bark.
It's dying a slow death.
Nothing is moving up or down:
Like terminal arterial sclerosis.

He pointed at a big girdling root
that has driven itself
through the tree's heart,
sealing its fate.
We looked up at leaves
thinning like a chemo patient's hair.
Kevin tore off a big piece
of red-and-yellow-striped plastic ribbon,
tied it around the trunk—
a notice of extinction,
A small branch fell by his feet.

Today, two men with ropes and chainsaws
dismember the tree from its crown to the ground.
Their chipper's diesel whine
drowns out any final moans
as it grinds everything
from twigs to huge hunks,
spews a stream of shredded bones.

The men rake, sweep, leave only
wet sawdust, skeletal roots,
a ringed vestige of the stump
as flat grave marker,
morning sun where there used to be shade,
a small scrap of striped ribbon.

["Death of the Maple" was also published in Untamed Ink, Volume I, Spring 2008, Lindenwood University and Honorable Mention, Missouri Writers' Guild 2007 Winter Writing Contest.]
Every type of mishap you can imagine, from rock falls to falling off the edge to river drownings to lightning strikes, are covered in this book.
Review by Phil Lowry of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers and Michael P. Ghiglieri. 

This guy jumped into the canyon,
walked onto the lodge terrace, didn't pause a second,
went right over like the rail was the final hurdle
in a slow-motion race.
          Sarah stands on the laundry cabin porch,
          looks at her hands, folds sheets and towels, frowns.
That gift shop book? Too dry.
Sure: heat stroke, lack of water, accidental falls.
What about the girl this week? Disappeared.
All they found were her shoes.
          She pulls more sheets from a canvas hamper,
          eyes the surrounding group, their steaming Starbucks cups.
Ever think of crossing the middle line,
crashing into whatever is coming the other way? Maybe
jerking the wheel on a hairpin turn, jumping into space?
          She smiles, the sun yellow on her face,
          reaches into a shirt pocket.
You know, some chocolate gives me headaches.
Not Hershey's.
I hold your hand
across the restaurant table,
feel the familiar, smooth skin
along your wrist, your arm.
I look at your lips,
inviting as they were almost 50 years ago,
and look into your face,
see a time
when you are without me.

When your father died,
I could not abate
your pain, palpable shock,
now must not say what I've seen.

I let go of your hand
and these thoughts,
turn my gaze
to the lemon tart
just placed before me.

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